ORANGE COUNTY – More than 100 employees at Petronella Roofing in Cathedral City are now out of work. The state shut down the business Tuesday after arresting the business owner for insurance fraud.
Dozens of those workers took to the streets of Santa Ana Wednesday morning demanding weeks of back pay. The target of their anger was the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.
Many of the existing projects they were working on, several at Desert country clubs, are now on hold.
The Orange County District Attorney’s office charged owner Michael Petronella and his wife of insurance fraud late April. A state-appointed manager has been running the business since then.
“We’ve been working forthree pay periods with no money. It’s not fair,” said employee Paul Gomez. “Yesterday, the state decided to shut the company down. The reason why they did that is because they are saying there’s no money coming in. The reason why there’s no money coming in is the homeowner’s associations refusing to pay because of what happened to the owner.”
Most of these men are roofers. They live paycheck to paycheck. They are now filled with anger and doubt, not knowing how they will provide for their families.
Roofer Fernando Romero now finds it difficult to provide for his Indio family, “We cannot get groceries right now. It’s been tough. Also, I haven’t paid my rent yet because the wages are way behind.”
They came from Cathedral City to Santa Ana, preparing to march on the Orange County DA’s office, demanding to know when they would get their back pay. The DA’s office refused to meet the protestor’s attorney, Nativo Lopez. The crowd marched a few blocks down to the Orange County Courthouse in an attempt to convince the trial judge for the Petronella fraud trial to compel the state receiver to hand over the last month’s paychecks.
Michael Petronella and his wife pleaded not guilty to 106 felony counts of state insurance fraud totalling $38 million.