Philly cabinetmaker: We went broke after Trump stiffed us

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Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign event on Tuesday at the Trump National Golf Club Westchester in Briarcliff Manor.

He's been called a lot of things. Fraud. Billionaire. Fake Billionaire. Presumptive Nominee. Presumptuous. Short-Fingered Vulgarian. Misogynist. Racist. Possible 45th President.

Now, add a new word to the Donald Trump lexicon: Deadbeat.

USA Today has collected the stories and the evidence behind hundreds of people who did work for Trump as he built up his real-estate portfolio over the years -- and who didn't get paid. Probably the most gut-wrenching tale comes from right here in Philadelphia: A family of cabinetmakers who said Trump's dishonesty put them out of business.

Here's what Paul Friel told USA Today:

During the Atlantic City casino boom in the 1980s, Philadelphia cabinet-builder Edward Friel Jr. landed a $400,000 contract to build the bases for slot machines, registration desks, bars and other cabinets at Harrah's at Trump Plaza.

The family cabinetry business, founded in the 1940s by Edward’s father, finished its work in 1984 and submitted its final bill to the general contractor for the Trump Organization, the resort’s builder.

Edward’s son, Paul, who was the firm’s accountant, still remembers the amount of that bill more than 30 years later: $83,600. The reason: the money never came. “That began the demise of the Edward J. Friel Company… which has been around since my grandfather,” he said.

Friel told the newspaper that he was one of a number of contractors called down to the casino in 1984 to meet with Trump and his brother, Robert:

In the meeting, Donald Trump told his father that the company’s work was inferior, Friel said, even though the general contractor on the casino had approved it. The bottom line, Trump told Edward Friel, was the company wouldn't get the final payment. Then, Friel said Trump added something that struck the family as bizarre. Trump told his dad that he could work on other Trump projects in the future.

“Wait a minute,” Paul Friel said, recalling his family's reaction to his dad’s account of the meeting. “Why would the Trump family want a company who they say their work is inferior to work for them in the future?”

Please read the entire USA Today investigation. I'd say that it's an eye-opener, but then is anyone surprised at this point at Trump's aggressively dishonest business practices? The writer, Steve Reilly, sketches an American Gothic of plumbers, painters, dishwashers, waiters, real estate brokers -- even some of the lawyers who represented Trump when some of these folks sued -- who took legal action with their claims that they were stiffed by the Donald.

Some of these folks were nickled and dimed out of their overtime, while a few on the hook for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Of course, there's always going to be some disputes in the rough-and-tumble real estate construction world over who's owed what, or the quality of a certain contractor's work. But experts agree Trump's record here is extraordinary: Either Trump is an inept boss who's hired scores upon scores of shoddy sub-contractors and employees...or else the flim-flam man behind Trump University is also a deadbeat. I'd lean heavily toward the latter.

The irony here is painfully obvious. These men and women who say they were cheated out of what they were owed by Trump are mostly salt-of-the-earth blue-collar folks, people who already "make America great" every day with their toil and sweat. The very folks with those good-paying American jobs that candidate Trump has promised to protect from all threats, foreign and domestic.

Except that "businessman" Trump didn't even bother to pay them what they were due. He ripped off his own voters. People who don't like Trump but who aren't alarmed by his candidacy like to say that, hey, America's had bad people with bad ideas in the Oval Office before, and we've survived. That's true, but we've never had a grifter and a deadbeat. The small band of Republicans said to be re-thinking Trump's Cleveland coronation may be onto something.

Because next time, you and I will be the ones stuck with the bill.