Brazilian Paulo Vanucci says his problems started when he got to the Nevada casino where he was supposed to have a job, but no work was available. So Hospitality & Catering Management Services (HCMS), the company he used to find employment and housing for him in the United States, bussed him to Whitefish to work at Idaho Timber.
According to Vanucci, when he finished the 15-hour bus ride to Montana, an HCMS property manager brought him downtown to the Alpha Apartments.
An inspection of Vanucci’s two-bedroom, one-bath apartment by an Independent reporter on Jan. 25 revealed holes in the walls, sagging ceiling tiles, bare light bulbs and cramped quarters for the five HCMS workers who each pay $250 per month rent to live there.
Vanucci says he wanted to find his own place, but was told that if he did not sign a 90-day lease for the apartment, HCMS would send him home. Unhappy about the living conditions, the price, or the fact he had to sign a three-month lease when he would only be staying for two, he nevertheless signed the papers.
Initially, there were only three people living in the apartment, Vanucci says. But the paperwork he signed upon arrival allowed HCMS to put two to three people in each bedroom, and “after some days [HCMS] threw two more guys in there,” he says.
Vanucci complained to HCMS Program Director Janece Burke via e-mail, and received the following reply.
“No one forced you to work for us or live in our housing. BUT, it is very clear on the job offer and Conditions of Employment you signed prior to arrival, that to work for us you must live in our housing.”
Neither Burke nor other HCMS representatives responded to requests from the Independent seeking comment on Vanucci’s experience.
Vanucci said he decided to leave the states after realizing he could never recover the costs of his trip, nor get better housing. “I am losing money for them to make money,” he says. “I paid about $4,000 to work here.”