THE INSIDE JOB
The boss thought she was the hardest-working person on his payroll.
Maybe she was. It's not easy building-and hiding-an extravagant second
life with company money. But how could a scam this big go unnoticed for
By Neil Swidey
September 17, 2006
ust after 4 o'clock, when John Ferreira was looking the other way, a prankster pushed him into his pool.
It's a gorgeous pool, rimmed by smooth boulders and an elaborate waterfall, and surrounded by golf
course-quality turf, all set against the backdrop of 120 acres of his private forest. Still, it's no fun being
tossed into the water fully clothed.
But Ferreira emerged a few seconds later, flashing a big grin. Standing on the patio, a puddle forming
around his feet, he pulled off his yellow T-shirt and wrung it dry, as 500 of his employees and their
families looked on, smiling.
Outside of his circle, few people know the 47-year-old Ferreira, who grew up poor on a dairy farm in
southeastern Massachusetts and never went to college. But he's a notable figure in New England's
construction and landscaping world, as well as in every corner of Rehoboth, his tiny farming hometown
that has turned into a bedroom community dotted with trophy homes, many of them built by Ferreira. He's
the definition of a big fish in a small pond. Yet even after his net worth swelled into the millions, even after
he was elected chairman of the Rehoboth Board of Selectmen, he never departed from his daily uniform
of a T-shirt, jeans, and work boots.
An hour after his unplanned swim, Ferreira, with sunglasses in his dark hair, walked several acres to get
to the far end of his lawn. There, an inflatable kiddie land that would rival any small amusement park's
had been erected for the day. There was a "Bungee Run," a mechanical bull, and a gladiator pit, which
Ferreira stepped into and began jousting with the police chief from a neighboring town. After about 10
minutes, with the police chief sufficiently vanquished, Ferreira stepped out of the pit. He walked by his
oversize garage where he stores his helicopter, and then he headed for the patio behind his white,
crushed-marble house, to watch the party's second musical act, a raucous R&B band.
Through the evening, right up until the dazzling 22-minute fireworks show, Ferreira shook hands, slapped
backs, and made sure his guests were having a good time and that their cups never ran dry.
The party on this muggy July day was Ferreira's 2006 summer bash. When he and his wife began the
annual tradition of opening their home to his employees and their families 18 years ago, he had a much
smaller home and a lot fewer employees. This year, 989 people had accepted his invitation, and there
were security checkpoints, guest lists, and bracelets handed out so the crashers couldn't slip in like last
Ferreira is popular with his people. He's a hard worker who demands the same of his employees, but he's