Yes, I know, it’s my fault.
Even Sione Fisi’iahi’s brother, told us I was stupid because I paid the full amount in advance. That’s some nerve, isn’t it? It’s my fault, not theirs. It’s not just us, though. We know of one other family they have done this to, and I am sure there are more.
Fifteen months ago, in June, 2012, Sione approached my wife and I in our yard at home in San Ramon and offered to perform landscaping and concrete work for us. He was quick to share his faith, his affiliation with LDS Church in Oakland, and told us stories about his relatives performing mission work.
Sione initially offered to remove a tree for us, then offered to replace a section of uneven walkway. Within an hour, his crew was breaking the sidewalk concrete while Sione aggressively pursued adding on additional work until we had agreed to pay $10,000 to install a retaining wall, replace a patio, install a sprinkler system, and remove the tree. We paid him $3,000 in advance.
For a week or two after that, he oversaw a substantial amount of work in our yard. We fed them meals and brought them an ice chest with ice and cold drinks. I bought gas for one of their cars. Every second day, Sione pleaded with me for more money. He had underbid, he needed money to buy supplies for us, on and on. We are not wealthy. That was a painful investment for us, based on dreams we hoped were coming true. Less than two weeks into the work, I gave him the last of the money. He showed up two more times in June, and we’ve never seen him since. Family members have returned on occasion to work for an hour or two, but Sione himself never came back.
The quality of the work so far is okay. Not good, but okay. It actually started out good, then got worse with time. Lots of chipped bullnose bricks, cracked/broken hollow blocks, and lower quality flagstone.
Getting them to work since last year is almost impossible. The job was originally promised to take two weeks. It’s now been fifteen months and there is no end in sight. They tell so many lies that anything said is taken to be false. My marriage has been strained, we can’t use our back yard, and our savings was emptied.
Sometimes they brought Mexican laborers with them, and they don’t pay them every time. I know one, David Hernandez, of Oakland, was paid 25% of what he was owed for a week of work here at my house in San Ramon. I feel strongly he’s not the only one. If I saw a Mexican laborer here one week, I’d never see him again. This matter alone weighs heavily on my spirit.
Suli asked me for $250 to install a drain in the back yard. I paid him and he disappeared that day for months, without doing the work. Sione Tavaki did finally finish that work. However, Tavaki then asked me for $350 to repair a building mistake they made (See photo below). I said, fine, and paid. He immediately removed the bad hollow blocks, but went home that day and never came back to finish the job. This is called fraud, and it’s illegal. We’re not talking civil complaint here, this is a criminal act.
If nothing is done, my final efforts will be to try to prevent this from happening to anyone else in San Ramon. This will include reporting Sione for not paying workers, also for not paying worker compensation insurance, also for working as an unlicensed contractor.