Disney adventure led to mostly illegal eight year stay

Steve Myrick

Adalberto Pires is a clean-cut, well-dressed, middle-aged man with a friendly baby face. Standing outside the Dukes County courthouse Tuesday, fresh from his latest appearance in Edgartown District Court, Mr. Pires spoke to a Times reporter about how he arrived on Martha’s Vineyard and how he expects to depart for his home in Brazil.

He said he works out at the YMCA nearly every day. He speaks English well, but sometimes gets confused with the spellings or meaning of words.

He does not look the part of a drug dealer. Police charge that he is.

Mr. Pires said that 10 hours after police arrested him for a traffic offense, they accused him of selling drugs.

“I said ‘I don’t know anything about drugs,'” Mr. Pires said. “They started asking me where’s the drugs, where’s the drugs. I don’t use drugs.”

The Times did not attempt to verify the details of his account, but his story offers an interesting glimpse into the life of one of the Island’s many Brazilian residents.

Mr. Pires said he entered the United States on a tourist visa in 2004. He spent more than a year on the road, hawking souvenir lights at the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. He spent time in Florida, he says, staying with friends, working in construction. He later traveled to the West Coast, settling for a time in Lakewood, Washington.

In Washington, he married a Jamaican woman. That marriage, he said, allowed him to apply for valid U.S. documents to live and work in the United States.

“They give you everything, Social Security number, work permit,” Mr. Pires said.

He said he left Washington state after his wife returned to Jamaica, and he could not renew his documents.

He moved to Martha’s Vineyard, where he stayed with friends and worked installing hardwood floors, building stone walls, and laying tile. At first, he said, he worked for local companies, but he soon became part of the Island’s underground economy, working for people who want to pay less than licensed and regulated contractors, and are willing to pay cash. He said he charges $28 per hour for work that others might charge $40 per hour.

“You need to work for friends or people that don’t need papers,” Mr. Pires said. “He pays cash, that’s it.”

He said with good referrals, which he calls “indications,” it was easy to find work on Martha’s Vineyard.

“If you have some indications,” he said. “If you don’t have good indications, no.”

Mr. Pires offered an explanation for the clothes dryers filled with paint sprayers police found in his storage unit. He said he has shipped commercial paint sprayers to Brazil before, but some of the merchandise was stolen.

“It happens too much,” he said. “They opened my stuff, took the machine, send the box. I use this trick. If they open the box, it’s a washing machine.”

He said he has an immigration lawyer in Boston, who has negotiated with the immigration court, and arranged for him to leave the United States voluntarily.

He said he has to show the court a dated plane ticket, but he can’t arrange for travel until his Island court case is completed and he receives his property back.

Mr. Pires said he is eager to leave. He smiled when asked why he came here.

“I came to visit Walt Disney,” Mr. Pires said. “I found some friends from Brazil in the parking lot.”