The sentencing hearing for a Halifax businessman accused of defrauding more than two dozen temporary foreign workers has been delayed, much to the disappointment of many of his former employees.
“He used us for more than two years and we’ve been waiting more than five years,” said Jason Sta Juana, one of Hector Mantolino’s former employees.
Mantolino, owner and operator of Mantolino Property Services Ltd., pleaded guilty in December to misrepresentation under provisions of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. He was originally charged in 2013.
Mantolino appeared in Nova Scotia Supreme Court on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Many workers and their families had taken time off work or used vacation days to attend the sentencing hearing.
The hearing will resume on Dec. 3.
“We’re not giving up,” said Sta Juana.
Between July 2010 and April 2013, Mantolino brought 28 workers, mostly from the Philippines, to work for his company under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. He was accused of underpaying his workers.
Some workers were given a flat rate of $500 a month for 160 hours of work, which is about $3.13 per hour), with $5 per hour for overtime. Others worked for an hourly wage, usually between $7 and and $11. Mantolino also deducted additional money from all of the cheques for expenses like rent and utilities, the court heard during the hearing.
He also allegedly deducted illegitimate fees for the jobs, usually $1,500 per job.
‘Should be sent to jail’
Sta Juana, 39, is originally from Taiwan. He came to Canada in 2010 to work as a lobster picker in New Brunswick and wanted to stay in the country after the season ended. He said he and his wife paid Mantolino $8,000 to bring them on as a temporary foreign workers — $3,000 for the jobs and $5,000 for Mantolino to submit the immigration applications. Juana’s wage of $9.20 was docked for expenses and fees owed to Mantolino.
“It’s hard, but for me it’s not only about the money. He should be sent to jail,” Sta Juana said Tuesday outside court.
While it was difficult to survive on so little, Juana said they felt like they didn’t have a choice. Without a full-time job, they wouldn’t be eligible for permanent residency and they held closed work permits that were tied to Mantolino.
Liza Alcantara, another employee, came from the Philippines. She said it wasn’t until after she arrived in Canada and received her first cheque that Mantolino told her she would be paid $500 for 134 hours a month, with $5 overtime — less than what she had been making as a hotel cleaner in the Philippines.
“I didn’t have a choice because I was here already. I didn’t know what was really happening,” she said outside of court.
“I was scared he would send me back home.”
Worried about deportation
She wasn’t the only one to feel this way. After Mantolino was charged, all of the employees were worried they would be deported. Like Sta Juana’s, their work permits were tied to Mantolino.
In June 2013, after some media attention, Citizenship and Immigration Canada granted all 28 workers open work permits, allowing them to stay in Canada and work for whoever they choose.
“We’re free. It’s like you’re out of the cave. You can work anywhere you want; you can live free,” Alcantara said. She lives in Halifax and has applied to become a Canadian citizen.
Mantolino was charged with 56 counts of immigration fraud in June 2013. Those charges were later rolled into a single, encompassing charge of misrepresentation under provisions of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.
Alcantara, 48, is eager to move on with her life and is frustrated by the delays in sentencing.
“It’s hard for us to make another schedule; we expected this was going to be the end,” she said Wednesday. “We’re really frustrated, all of us. Nothing happened.”
Although they will keep waiting.
“What we want is the right judgment,” she said.