Auckland carpenters say they've been scammed out of thousands by ex-boss

A large group of Auckland carpenters say they've been ripped off and left thousands of dollars out of pocket.  

Ten builders and hammerhands say as a result, they've been struggling to feed their families. 

And while they've waited for their pay, the man who allegedly owes them money, Praise Mhlanga, has been taking private flying lessons.

Downbeat and disillusioned, they're hard working Kiwi carpenters in a dire situation.

"I've got a family of five so I've got no work, no money," explains carpenter Danny Poi. "We are trying to bring it up so this guy doesn't do it to anyone else."

Mr Mhlanga, the director of labour hire firm P-Pros, employed the men at McLennan Park in Papakura.

It's the same site where the first Kiwibuild homes were sold, although the company that gave Mhlanga the work told Newshub the men worked on private dwellings, not Kiwibuild. 

Mr Poi says he just wants to get paid.

"You know we want to make our living, and pay our bills and feed our families."

They're owed varying amounts. Lalesh Kumar says he's due $8000; he wants to take legal action, but can't.

"We have to wait and fight, by the time people wait and fight. How can we fight without money?"

Hammerhand Tuakana Tana says getting money from Mr Mhlanga won't be easy, as it's difficult to get in touch with him.

"I'm owed about $3,000 from Praise and he actually doesn't respond to me. He's just fully cut contact."

Their framing work on 12 homes was approved by Auckland Council. 

Further infuriating them is knowing that Mr Mhlanga was taking private flying lessons at Ardmore, and was jet-skiing last week. Although Mhlanga says he'd borrowed the jet-ski from a mate, Mr Poi isn't convinced.

"On a jet-ski, obviously somewhere in Auckland having a great time doing selfies while we are sitting at home worrying about money."

Another hammerhand, Daniel Makahununiu, has also tried to get in touch with Mr Mhlanga.

"There's bills to pay and stuff and little ones to feed. It's unfair. And I've messaged him a few times about it and no response."

So we went in search of a response.

Mr Mhlanga says he's been in touch.

"I have spoken to them and I have told them that I will pay them. It's just cash flow problems, man," he said.

"I think I over-extended myself taking up that big project, because that was just out of my scope."

He says he hasn't been able to pay the men, as he's owed money by another company. 

"It's painful for everybody when stuff like this starts to happen."

When asked if he was a rip-off artist, he denied it.

Praise Mhlanga told Newshub he'll pay the men by Friday next week.

However the workers say they've heard such promises many times before, and don't have much confidence they'll see their money.

A Givealittle page has been set up to help support the men. You can visit it here.



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