TAMPA - Plagued with debt, flush with charisma, Sergio Pinto arrived in Tampa in 2001.
Back in Pittsburgh, he was many things: a restaurateur, an actor on "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood," owner of a translation business. He came to Tampa, a town with a climate more like the one in his native Guatemala â€” and a far greater need for his talent of interpreting Spanish to English and vice-versa.
The change of scenery didn't change his money woes.
By March 2002, five months after signing a $627-a-month lease, Pinto was evicted from his Seminole Heights apartment for failure to pay.
That year, Pinto apparently found a new enterprise to supplement translating work from clients such as the U.S. public defender.
His new clientele: illegal immigrants.
His sales pitch, according to many who said they responded to it: For $6,000, I can get you a work permit and legalize your status.
Problem is, they said, he never did.
[Immigrants: Promises For Work Permits Were Broken, By Karen Branch-Brioso, The Tampa Tribune, February 24, 2008]