Superhighway Robbery in Mexico

An older method.

by baldilocks

I’m old enough to remember when people who stuck their money in between their mattresses were called crazy and paranoid. Nine times out of ten, it was your grandma or grandpa who grew up during the Great Depression.

These grandmas and grandpas — retired American expats — would have been better off had they done this.

In late December, Kathy Machir called Marcela Zavala Taylor, her banker of nine years at Mexico’s Monex Casa de Bolsa, to get cash for contractors building her retirement home in San Miguel de Allende. Typically, Zavala would wire money or dispatch her assistant, Juan, on his motorcycle with an envelope full of pesos. Monex, with $5.2 billion in assets and operations in the U.S., was woven into the lives of Machir and the 10,000 other Americans who’ve moved to San Miguel de Allende.

The transfer didn’t happen. Juan didn’t show, Zavala didn’t return calls, and Kathy and Jim Machir discovered that their nest egg was gone. When the Machirs and other San Miguel expatriates met with Monex officials in early January, the bankers told some of them that about $40 million was missing from as many as 158 accounts, many belonging to English-speaking Americans. A dozen people interviewed by Bloomberg News say that bank statements Zavala sent them purporting to show full accounts were apparently falsified. Most say the bank has told them little since they filed complaints, and some say Monex tried to settle for far less than the balances owed. “When they told us we had 6 pesos [32¢] in our accounts, I just felt sick to my stomach,” Kathy Machir says. “Since then, they have not dealt with us in good faith.”

You think?

Some of the victims think it’s a matter of poor security, but my WAG is that the Cartels are paying off employees and/or threatened them and their families in order to gain access. I suppose that we should embrace the power of “and.”

The … ahem… bottom line is that some entities have made off with Big Time $$$$  belonging to American expats in Mexico and there is nothing that the victims can do about it.

The scandal has crushed the expat community in San Miguel, as non-Mexicans have few rights or legal protection, even for an obvious fraud on this scale committed by an employee [sic; certainly more than one employee] of the bank. According to Monex, an investigation into Zavala [is underway] and legal action is continuing, but no details are forthcoming.

Is this really a surprise? Mexico is riven top to bottom with corruption and has been for a long time.

But …

Reading this story reminded me of an incident years ago.

I had received an insurance check – a few thousand dollars. Naturally, I immediately deposited it into an account I held at a major bank. I had the teller release a portion of the amount so that I could pay my electric bill.

When I got home, I got on my laptop to pay the bill, but the payment was rejected for lack of funds! So, I called the bank to get the balance and to my surprise, there was $100 in the account.

According to the automated response, there were no recent deposits and none pending.

From there, I talked to a customer service agent and told him what happened. Thanks be to God, I had kept the paper proof of my deposit – that little receipt they give you – and, therefore, gave him the date, time and serial number on it. He checked my account again and … nothing.

With audible shock in his voice, he told me to get right back over there to the branch. I was already out the door when he said this.

When I got back to the branch, I waited in line and let people go in front of me so that I could talk to the same teller. My hands were shaking a bit, but I managed to keep my cool. That’s always better when one is pondering arson and methods of obtaining explosives.

Suffice it to say, I made sure that the correct amount was in my account. My voice was calm, but I’m sure that my eyes were all “wait until you get off work.” And just to appease me, the teller released the check’s whole amount for my use.

I have no doubt whatsoever that fraud was afoot; I checked that account’s activity every day for quite some time.

And, related to this, we’ve all been watching for over ten years as Big Banking and Big Credit Card slowly reveal their corruption. It’s quicker and more overt with Monex because Monex’s customers – specifically American ones — have no protection, as stated above.

And no guns, or, at least, not enough of them.

Big Credit Card and Big Banking will try this in America if/when they think they can get away with it. That is for sure.

Keep an eye on all of them.

Juliette Akinyi Ochieng has been blogging since 2003 as baldilocks. Her older blog is here.  She published her first novel, Tale of the Tigers: Love is Not a Game in 2012.

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