Victor was a good mechanic but a lousy husband. The owner of a gas station and auto shop in Canarsie once punched his wife in the face during an argument. But he instilled in his youngest son a fierce sense of self-respect. "My father taught me right from wrong and to pay people what they're owed," Santana recalls.

Although his grades rarely rose above B's, Santana had a talent for keeping track of endless details. "Everyone always told me that Santana was going to be a scientist. He was so smart," remembers Frances Santana. "But I always thought he was going to be a lawyer. He has a mind like a trap."

When Victor and Frances separated in 1986, Santana decided his mother, older brother, and he should move somewhere new. Miami Vice was on television every week, and the South Florida sunshine seemed irresistible to the 15-year-old. He had saved $5,000 working at a grocery store.

The family rented an apartment in Kendall. Santana attended Sunset Senior High School, working after class and on weekends in fast-food joints. Luis struggled to find work.

High school buddy Orlando Ruiz — who asked that his last name be changed for fear of losing his current waiting job — remembers Santana as shy and slightly embarrassed by his plain white T-shirts and old jeans. In the years after graduation, the two hung out often at Café Iguana, a nightclub in Kendall's Town & Country Shopping Center. "We were both young and single," Ruiz says. "We got into a lot of trouble together."

In 1994, Santana and Ruiz were walking home from Café Iguana when Santana spotted spare change on the ground near a turnpike toll bucket. A cop saw Santana pocketing the coins and told him to throw them in the bucket. Santana refused and was arrested for theft. A judge threw out the case, but legal trouble lingered. Three years later, he was arrested twice more: once for petit larceny and again for obstruction of justice when he refused to snitch about a fight at Café Iguana. He paid a $108 fine.

The larceny charge was dropped: Santana claims he was shopping at Marshall's with his brother, who shoplifted a shirt. "I was in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong person," he recalls. It wouldn't be the last time.

Santana studied hospitality management at Miami Dade College but dropped out during his second year. Instead, he began working in restaurants. The late hours and cash tips suited his lifestyle. He graduated from KFC to Chili's, where he was promoted from busboy to server and then to bartender. He spent his tips at nightclubs. "I got addicted to the industry," he says.

Santana remembers his first lawsuit like most people recall their first kiss. In 2002, he was working at On the Border Mexican Grill in Kendall when he received a letter from attorney Lawrence McGuinness, who has made a career of suing restaurants for labor violations. The letter described a class-action complaint against the restaurant's parent company, Brinker Florida Inc., for underpaying its waiters. It alleged that the company "encouraged" keeping servers off-the-clock until their first table showed up and clocking them out as soon as their last table left. With the money it supposedly saved by skimming hours from its waiters, Brinker allegedly gave monthly bonuses to its managers.

Santana met with McGuinness and signed on to the lawsuit. When the company settled, he netted a quick $8,000. He was hooked.

Eddie Santana might be the most hated man on Miracle Mile, but tonight he slides up to the bar at Hillstone with no problem. "Hey, man, remember me?" Santana asks the bartender, a soft-spoken guy named Tony. "I used to work here."

"Oh, yeah," Tony says slowly, trying to place Santana's smirk.

"I sued this place," Santana adds.

The bartender nods nervously and pours a drink.

A year after his first lawsuit against Brinker, Santana hit Hillstone (then called Houston's) with a similar set of complaints. When the upscale eatery fired Santana shortly afterward, he added a "retaliation" charge. The resulting settlement remains Santana's single biggest haul to date. Although he is forbidden from discussing it because of a confidentiality agreement, New Times discovered independently that he received $20,000.

He's pushing his luck by even coming here.

Dawn Blum — Santana's wife, or fiancée, or girlfriend, depending on which day of the week you ask him — sits demurely beside him. A thin blond with pale skin, butterfly tattoos, and sad, red-rimmed eyes, she looks nervous, as if awaiting a coming storm.

Santana orders a water for Blum and the most expensive beer on the menu for himself. After all, New Times is buying. Then he picks up the wine menu. He stares at the name of one bottle with a $140 price tag. "I can buy bottles like that after my settlement," he says, referring to his pride and joy: a pending lawsuit against nearby Ruth's Chris Steak House for alleged unpaid wages, tip skimming, sexual harassment, and retaliation. He says he's received offers of $5,000 and $10,000 but plans to hold out for $50,000.

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57 comments
Esantana44
Esantana44

I just love sucking off black guys till they shoot their filthy scum all over my face and in my mouth.  Call me, big boy.

Eddie

Esantana44
Esantana44

Eddie here.  Any big, hunky guys want to give it to me up the ass?  I'm waiting for your cock, lover.

south beach properties
south beach properties

I hope Justice Can agree with him . He looks like he has experience on this . He Will win .

Solidlarocque
Solidlarocque

Cursing in an article is unprofessional. I would care if you are commenting what a person said.

roxanna
roxanna

This guy is not the sweetest waiter but I gotta say that the end justifies the means.

Maggie
Maggie

Everything you do in life is for personal gain and personal gain only.

The bonus here is that it ALSO helps other people.

VANESSA
VANESSA

Taking tips from the wait staff is the lowest form of low -- those owners deserve Eddie!

STEVE
STEVE

I think hes doing a great job...bring restaurant owner to justice especially in Miami..so many shady business owners down here..you guys dont even know!

Frank
Frank

As someone who's worked in a So. Fla. restaurant in the past, whatever makes these scam artists afraid to pull this kind of crap on staff who work their ass off for $4/hr + tips is fine with me.

fedupwithscumbags
fedupwithscumbags

Just another douchebag piece of breathing garbage. And to all his fans, just remember that every restaurant and bar this walking hunk of detritus sues simply passes the expense on to you.

Kah2kah
Kah2kah

And BTW he hasn't won dick in court, they all settle, the guy wouldn't win a fucking thing in court, companies just wont wate the money to defend, average lawsuit that goes to trail - over 50k

Kah2kah
Kah2kah

I bartend in the Kendall area and Eddie is notorious for walking out on bar tabs without paying his other trick is paying with his credit/debit card then not signing the slip and then disputing the charges. Eddie also used to hook up with guys for coke at Misty Blues on 88th. I mean I'm down with screwing these companies ,but at the end I don't even think he wants to work.

VITO
VITO

I don't know this guy Eddie but he seems like a guy who keeps it real.Man if somebody was messing with me or my money,you better believe I would be going after them.Now that I know my rights and some law because of Eddie,I'm going to sue some of my former and current employers and people who dare to ever touch me.Hey Eddie don't worry about some of these negative comments on here, they are just jealous or they probably know you and just never liked you,Just brush that stuff off.Like they say,the day that you should start worrying is the day people stop talking crap about you.Your obviously important if they are talking about you.I see you doing big things with a story like this like writing your own book,going on shows,being in the news and even being in a movie.Good luck man and keep your head up

Loser Eddie
Loser Eddie

Mr. Santana you are exactly what is wrong with America, you want something for nothing. You are a thief and in the end you will get yours. Keep sucking on the tit of your lawyers as they are just as corrupt as you. Bad habits are dangerous but obviously your derelict parents didn't teach you that...

Tuffsheet Amigo
Tuffsheet Amigo

If this guy stays in Miami long enough sooner or later someone will shut him up with a 'deadly missile' called a 'bullet'............

Seattle Pete
Seattle Pete

No heroes in this incredible story.

If this guy were a modern day "David" or "Robin Hood" he'd use the money to help his fellow oppressed restaurant workers. It'd be different were he filing lawsuits on behalf of other workers who had legitimate complaints, but he is clearly out to make as much dough as he can for himself. His actions make a mockery of legal devices meant to protect people who have no other means of recourse. But then outrageous lawsuits are the norm in this country.

The fact that restaurant owners routinely cheat their workers does not make Santana's lawsuit habit a noble enterprise. Too bad that an obviously very bright guy is squandering his God given gifts; he's clearly smart enough to do something useful with his life. And I agree with another comment - he keeps this up and he'll eventually run into someone who is more crazy than he, and he'll get killed.

Stan
Stan

This guy is great. Interesting story.

Reading some of the previous comments reinforces my assessment that a great many Americans have no clue about living under rule of law. A good many of you should be deported to a place more to you liking. Somalia comes to mind, no reason rugged individualists who hate the law can't thrive there. Lol.

I hope Eddie continues to thrive while crushing these scumbags.

Sophia Green
Sophia Green

Hi cutie, Could you hit me up on--- RichFlirts.C'om---A dating club for successful, beautiful people.I am a smart&pretty gal. seeking a sweet man.pls Check out my username myshine,serious...

Sam
Sam

If he cared about changing the working conditions or issues of tip payments, working off the clock for all restaurant workers he would contact the DOL with a valid complaint. Rather he is simply trying to extort a quick settlement from these companies and who does it hurt, it hurts the customers who end up paying more for a meal out.

Jaredswilliams
Jaredswilliams

He actually isn't an immigrant, it says he was born in California. His parents are immigrants. If you're going to be racist, don't be ignorant. It just affirms what everyone thinks about ignorant racists.

miami web design
miami web design

I think it's justified, what he is doing is something that every employer should do..especially in Miami where everyone is cutting corners in the business.

RungoRungo
RungoRungo

Wow, this loser needs a serious beating. One day he will screw with the wrong person and end up and the bottom of Miami Bay.

www.privacy-tools.cz.tc

Shogun
Shogun

obviously the dude is shady as hell, but if restaurant owners and managers weren't equally shady or worse he wouldn't be able to do what he's doing and anybody who disagrees has never worked in a restaurant.

zbuzz
zbuzz

It's curious to see how so many people don't see the positive side here - he's making managers think twice before they're ripping off their own staff. Sure, he may get rich in the process and that might be his only motivation, but he's in the right, isn't he?

Rj
Rj

this is no mordern day robinhood-- he's abusing the legal system to try to buy the life most of of just go out and work for ... P.O.S.--

GRASSO
GRASSO

GIVE ME A FUCKING BREAK YOU FUCKEN DRAMA QUEEN. You are more worried about menu prices than an employer possibly ripping off your own son or daughter or girlfriend YOU PIECE OF SHIT. I am AN ITALIAN GUITO FROM NEW YORK AND WITH YOUR STUPID ASS COMMENTS WOULD NOT LAST A SECOND IN STATEN ISLAND OR EVEN IN JERSEY YOU ###### MULAN. FUCK THESE RESTAURANT OWNERS THEY TAKE AND TAKE AND DONT GIVE A FUCK ABOUT NO ONE.

Vinny
Vinny

Shut up LOSER. So employees should let there employers steal from them. Your the piece of garbage. You must be a business owner or something who is just scared. Grow up.

eddie
eddie

How would you know ORLI?? your so two faced its pitiful!!

eddie
eddie

Hey kah2kah(what a name) I have been to trial 3 times and have won all three. So don't talk if you don't know. I don't know why I am even wasting my time explaining myself to your sorry hating ass.

eddie
eddie

Oh really,what is your name and where do you work? You are obviously a BIG FAN of mine if your talking all this shit.These are all false allegations as you know.You just want to give me a bad name,WHATEVER HATER.

Esantana44
Esantana44

ALL THESE THIEVING RESTAURANT OWNERS LIKE YOU,WHO LOVE MESSING WITH POOR PEOPLES' MONEY, BUT WHEN THEY FIGHT BACK AND WIN, THE OWNERS HATE IT . KARMA IT IS.

ClintJCL
ClintJCL

Considering he won lawsuits in court, that means his employers were doing something illegal. The fact that you are mad at him for enforcing the law seems to indicate that you prefer criminal enterprises running in a way that breaks the law.

EDDIE
EDDIE

If it makes you feel better to insult me then go ahead.What do you do for a living MR, HATER?

VALERIE
VALERIE

Your an idiot.Your just jealous of this guy

Esantana44
Esantana44

I got a poor mom who was getting robbed by a local restaurant a $15,000.00 settlement which in turn she bought a new house for her and her baby,

Esantana44
Esantana44

By the way MR.KNOW IT ALL, I have made plenty of other servers A LOT of money.

Eddie
Eddie

Thanks Stan.

Meeple Youuple
Meeple Youuple

i agree 100%I wish there was a way for me to donate $100 to this guy - sure beats the collection plate at church, I'll tell you that!

Meeple Youuple
Meeple Youuple

there is no morality in business (or anywhere else in America, for that matter)The only assessment ever done is: While this action harm me financially?While this poorly made chair cause me to be sued?Referring to the DOL, the SEC or the EEOC is a JOKE. Our regulatory bodies have stood by while warned specifically of the likes of Bernie Madoff etc - and done NOTHING.

Whistle blower laws specifically allow for a portion of the damages to go to the whistle blower. For the customers who "end up paying more for a meal out"? Give me a fking break - I'd rather not eat any 'fight club clam chowder' (

EDDIE
EDDIE

I have contacted the DOL in the past.They are extremely slower to resolve issues than filing a lawsuit.And they do not recover liquidated damages and related costs.I have been there and done that.The restaurant owners just laugh and don't change their ways when they get a complaint from the DOL because there are no repurcussions like fines(they claim that they fine them $1,000.00 but it never happens) or anything.But they surely don't laugh when they get slapped with a lawsuit and they change their ways because if not they would go out of business.They steal money at the waiters expense.This is why sometimnes you go to a restaurant and receive bad service because the owners and mangers are abusing and taking advantage of these poor waitresses and waiters who are trying to make an honest living.

Kingjoebob
Kingjoebob

Dirt bag yes, His mother immigrant yes, him an immigrant no as he was born in California according to the article which by US law makes him a US citizen. Did no one pay attention in government and civics class?

Shogun
Shogun

dirt bag. and idiot as well. learn to read you racist prick.

Martin D. Goodkin
Martin D. Goodkin

RJ Have you ever worked in a restaurant??? I did for 38 years and whether you like what he is doing/saying or not he is telling the truth about how restaurant workers are treated and mistreated.

rick john
rick john

you're an idiot. go back to fucking staten island, please. I'm not even saying you're wrong, because you're not, but for the love of god, your comment makes me want to punch you in the fucking nuts.

Sent Packing
Sent Packing

Eddie,

Please Please Please learn the difference between YOUR and YOU'RE. You keep using YOUR (possessive) when you should be using YOU'RE (contraction of YOU ARE).

Thank you.

Kah2kah
Kah2kah

Read the article, not one lawsuit has gone to trial, he hasn't won shit, all settlements...they wont waste money

EDDIE
EDDIE

Thank you Clint.You OBVIOUSLY HAVE A BRAIN UNLIKE SOME OF THESE OTHER IGNORANT RESTAURANT OWNERS.THANK YOU, THANK YOU,THANK YOU.These restaurant owners think that they are INVINSIBLE.

eddie
eddie

And if you read correctly it says 11 cases were settled.What about the other 20 dunb dumb??

 
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