The businesses would pay Silva an unknown amount of money. Then Silva would send a subcontractor, like Keenan, to do the work.
Keenan worked on signs in Beverly, Peabody, Danvers, Reading, Stoneham, Boston’s Chinatown, and in Easton and Stoughton. Some of it required Keenan to hire his own subcontractor with a bucket truck, at a cost of $400 a day.
When Keenan started looking for his payment, however, all he got were excuses, he said.
One message from Silva reads, “im scramblin to get u paid and the bank was closed, email me ur invoices to this point.”
In another message, he claimed his phone had “died.” Keenan saved and printed out the messages.
On a trip to a local electrical supply house, Keenan mentioned the situation. A friend from a company called Star Sign immediately recognized the name and groaned. They had also been targets of Silva, Keenan said.
The businesses got together and contacted the attorney general’s office, but were told it was a civil matter that they’d have to pursue in small claims court.
That didn’t feel right to Keenan. “I said to myself, this is ridiculous that this guy is getting away with this,” he said.
So Keenan, “the average working guy with a wife and three kids trying to make a living,” turned detective.
The phone numbers turned out to be for prepaid cellphones in someone else’s name. The offices on Newbury Street in Boston? A mailbox at a UPS Store (turns out the address he used in Philadelphia is also a mailbox at a UPS Store).
He and some of the other business owners stumbled upon his real address in an unusual way: One of the businesses Silva had approached, North Reading Motor Sports, had offered to pay in part with a new motorcycle, which Silva promptly used to pay a contractor doing work at his home.