Friday, July 30, 2010
Carmel on the Case: Follow-Up on Michael Vargas
A follow-up tonight to a job scam 7 News first exposed earlier this summer. The man behind it has admitted guilt and agreed to pay his victims back. Investigative report Carmel Cafiero has the story.
WSVN -- Michael Vargas has been locked up in the Miami-Dade County Jail since late June. He'll be wearing jail house orange a while longer.
Judge Marisa Tinkler Mendez: "How do you plead?"
Michael Vargas: "Guilty."
The guilty plea to a charge of grand theft is a result of a bogus business deal the New Jersey resident ran in South Florida. Through a company called Security Professional Group, he promised workers security guard jobs after they paid him $250 for a training course.
Jerry Perl: "Job? No job there was not job at all."
Jerry Perl along with Larry Williamis and Emerald George are among dozens maybe hundreds of South Florida job seekers who fell for Vargas ads that promised jobs at $13 to $15 an hour.
Emerald George: "I ask him like five to 10 times. I ask him is it guaranteed that after the training. Do you get a job? and he said yeah."
Worse yet, victims say the training included being hit with pepper spray. The state says none of it is necessary to get a security job license. It was a big loss for many like Larry Williams who has five children to support.
Larry Williams: "For you not to know where your next dollar is coming from, yeah, it puts anybody in a touch situation."
Now Vargas, who at first entered a not guilty plea has changed his mind. He'll serve 45 days in jail with credit for time served. That means he's out in less than a week. However, he will be on probation for five years.
Katherine Fernandez Rundle: "We were quickly able to put him out of business. Put him in jail and now we are able to seek a resolution for the victims."
Carmel Cafiero: "The plea deal the State Attorney's office worked out with Vargas provides for something victims of this sort of crime don't see very often money back."
Vargas will put 9,000 in a trust fund and will pay more if more victims are located. Victims who lost more than money.
Kathy Fernandez Rundle: "But it was also hope and so this, this con artist of the worst order came and stole all of that and that's reprehensible."
Vargas might have gotten away with it. Victims were told by police it was a civil matter, but when an investigator from the State Attorney's office found out about what was going on, he thought otherwise as a result Michael Vargas is now a convicted felon.
The State Attorney's office says if you were a victim of Michael Vargas who used the name Michael Anthony, you should contact the Criminal Investigations Unit at: 305-547-0669 with proof, you can get your money back.