A very wealthy man was changing the face of a Caribbean island with construction projects involving hotels, restaurants, banks, houses, etc. An island native approached him at a party and told the rich man he was “being stolen blind” from his many construction sites. But I am a rich man, he said. The islander said if a 2 x 4 piece of lumber is stolen in the U.S., it can be replaced on Monday morning. On the island, it takes two months and a ride on a steamship to replace it.
The rich man had a massive forensic accounting conducted on all of the construction material needed for all of the projects. The result was that three times that amount had already been shipped to the island, and the projects were only about half completed!
An investigation ensued, beginning with interviewing a woman who had complained that a truckload of 2 x 4s had mistakenly been delivered to her property. She believed they should have gone to the next property over, which happened to belong to one of the construction site managers. Interviews were conducted with several of the “little guys” (most came from other islands), working on the site, until one was picked to work as a “source.” He was assigned to load and unload trucks throughout the day, and he knew the routes they followed.
One-by-one, more “sources” were recruited from the different construction projects. Beyond following those leads, many of the island’s distant villages were visited and the largest and newest homes were sought. Invariably, they belonged to site managers. Houses, only a bit smaller, belonged to assistant site managers. One long trip through what looked like Jurassic Park, and turning onto an unmarked dirt road far up into a mountainous area, opened into a clearing where there was a newly constructed home. It was almost identical to a new hotel, but on a slightly smaller scale. Land records indicated the new-home property was owned by the hotel construction site manager.
A particular new construction project involved the use of red bricks. Island houses are either “board” or “block,” and there was never a brick on the island before it was begun. Driving through any village, all brick houses were made of bricks that had been stolen from that construction site.
After seven months, 32 houses and an eight-unit apartment building were located, all of which had been built with company materials, on company worker time, often double-time on Sundays, using company trucks, gas, wheelbarrows, etc. Virtually every construction manager had at least one new house, and when the overall construction manager, also an islander, was thoroughly investigated, not only did he have a “new home,” but his mother’s home had been completely renovated, also with company manpower and machines.
An extraordinary example of stealing wet cement took place at the planned pouring of the walls of a swimming pool. This requires a greater strength in the chemical composition than normal foundations and flatwork. Thirty men gathered at the large rectangular hole lined with tied rebars. The construction manager delayed the pouring a few minutes at a time, and more water had to be added to the large spinning barrels of the cement trucks. After about three hours an inspector declared the cement no longer fit for use in the pool and asked if anyone wanted that many yards of cement. The construction manager said he could use it, so it was trucked off to his own new house foundation where another thirty men were waiting for it with rebars already tied in place.
An intra-island investigation would have been impossible because almost everyone on the many projects had a relative or close friend in the island’s police force, so nothing was ever reported or investigated.