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#512860 - 04/05/16 05:05 AM Businessman Narrates Tale Of Extortion In Chetumal  
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 52,664
Marty Offline
Marty  Offline
On last week Thursday's news we told you about a Belizean businessman who had to be rescued from a Chetumal Hotel by the Mexican Navy after receiving a very serious extortion threat. Tonight, we have his full first hand account - and the story he relates may turn your view of Chetumal upside down - apparently, it's not the charming and relatively crime free border town you thought it was!

But, first off, he asked us to mask his identity because the threats were so direct and made use of so much detailed personal information. But he says he had to come forward, because Belizeans need to recognize that when they go to Chetumal to breeze off for a weekend, the Mexican mafia could be watching them. His story begins on Easter Monday night, March 28th, at 11:40 in his room at the Fiesta Inn, when he, his wife and daughter were awakened by a person he thought to be the receptionist:...

Voice of Victim
"It was the receptionist who addressed me by name and told me that the commandant of the police was there and wanted to speak to me, said to me yes sir and addressed me by name again. He also addressed me by name again when he came on the phone telling me that there was an incident taking place in the vicinity about a block from Fiesta Inn, including some Traficantes and that two of them were registered in the room next to me and so he wanted to let us know that he was looking out for our safety. By this time I was already scared out of my widths, based on the situation because the first conversation he had said that if I hear gun fired or anything I should just stay put, lay down on the room. The second conversation, he said that for security purposes he just needed to make some verification of my status, of the details concerning me, which the hotel had already had some of those details. He wanted to know our full names of everyone in the room and our ages. He wanted to know the vehicle I was driving, color of it, make etc. for security purposes I complied. He asked me if I had any cellular phones and how many. I let him know how many. He ask which ones were Belize and if I had Mexican. I said yes I had a Mexican phone. He asked that the Belize phones be turned off immediately and to leave on the Mexican phone. He then hung up and said he would call back. He didn't call back on the Mexican phone and that is where things took a different shift. He then asked me that for security purposes again, he needed to know how much money I was carrying. I said very little and I gave him the amount I was carrying. He then told me that he would put me on hold, not to release this call and that he would check on me every 5-10 minutes to make sure I was okay and do not leave the room."

"This went on for over an hour, after which time he then proceeded to change his story and said he is one of the top bosses of the narcotraficking in that area, tied to the Sinaloa Cartel and that in fact the story remain that there were guys in the room next to me of a competing cartel that they needed to extinguish. His boss then let me know categorically without the shadow of a doubt that they were big people in the cartel and that at that time I asked him that I thought I was speaking earlier to the commandant of the police and he said yes, 'we own the police.' He said 'would you like to speak with him again?' At that time he asked me that if I would like to make a contribution, (that's how he put it) a small contribution to the cartel, that they were asking all the people they had contacted in the hotel for a contribution. I said and how much is that contribution and he said $5,000 Pesos. I agreed. I said I'll put it in an envelope and slide it under the door. He said no sir, you will do no such thing. You go to walk across to the Oxxo, which is 3 blocks in the hotel. He said 'do you know the Oxxo?' I said I think I know where it is. And you are going to deposit $500 Pesos into 10 phone numbers that I will give you and I said no, I am not going to no Oxxo. He said, well your girlfriend, your wife, whosever is there with you will have to go and do it for you. I said that will not happen either."

"That was when the conversation shifted and then he gave me to another man, who asked me how much I value my life and how much was I willing to pay to get out of that hotel alive, for me, my wife or anybody that was with me. I said a life has no value sir. He says exactly. Well what you are going to do is first break of dawn, you are going to go to a bank and we will instruct you. I then said that I am not a wealthy man and he says we know everything there is to know about you, we googled you, we know exactly who you are. He says you will go to the bank, we have people working there and you will drain those credit cards to their max as well as all the money you have and we will tell you where you will give it to us and in return we will let you return to Belize with your life. I said well sir, I am not doing that either, so you have to come and kill me here tonight, you will have to do it here because I am not leaving this hotel at all til its time to go to Belize and I am not going to deliver any money to no Oxxo or to no Bank."

"At that point, he told me that he'll do better than that, because we will kill you, because I am going to make sure that we plant a kilo of Cocaine whether in your room or in your car and you will serve the rest of your years, which he already knew my age, in a Mexican prison and the female or females that are with you will likewise serve the rest of their lives in a female prison, being violated daily."

"At that point I said sir, this conversation has ended and I hung up. At that point I made a call to Belize to my family to advise them what was happening and my second call was to a friend that I have in Belize in the military, who then made the connection to the Chetumal Navy. The Navy would have been there within 30 minutes. They were. Now, out of protection I got surprised, I didn't expect that amount of protection. But they told me this is not the first time that this had occurred and not the first time at Fiesta Inn, that it had happened before and that the employees are in cahoots - the top navy man. You must realize that in all the time this is happening I am still in fear because I am not sure if the people I am dealing with are involved in all of this any at all."

So was it really the Navy that came to whisk him and his companions away? Find out tomorrow in part two of our interview - when our subject will tell us what happened next, and share key security tips anyone travelling to Chetumal needs to know.

Our interviewee told us that the Navy Commander stated plainly that there was collusion from hotel staff at the Fiesta Inn - and this wasn't the first time it had happened there. We contacted the Fiesta Inn in Chetumal and they told us that they could not give us information, and not to call back.

Channel 7

#512883 - 04/06/16 04:59 AM Re: Businessman Narrates Tale Of Extortion In Chetumal [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 52,664
Marty Offline
Marty  Offline

Extortion and Escape From Chetumal

Last night you heard the gripping first-hand account of extortion in Chetumal. It happened to a Belizean businessman and his family who were staying at the Fiesta Inn. On the night of Easter Monday, he got a call to his room from what he thought was the hotel's front desk. From there - over the course of a two-hour phone call - an elaborate extortion plot unfolded. That was part one. Tonight in part two you'll hear how he escaped. We pick up the story right where the Mexican Navy swooped in to the Fiesta to extract the businessman and his family. He tells us after a disorienting phone call from the extortionists - he wasn't sure who was coming up to his hotel room to take him away - but it looked like SEAL Team Six:..

Belizean Businessman - Extorted at Fiesta Inn, Chetumal
"I mean these guys were like the navy seals. These guys were top of the line and when they surrounded me, took me downstairs - I had already packed, they send for my vehicle. They put 3 military in my vehicle, brought it up. All this time I am thinking sucks this is the right time to plant something if they want in my vehicle."

Jules Vasquez
"You don't know if you are being arrested or abducted?"

Belizean Businessman - Extorted at Fiesta Inn, Chetumal
"I don't know at this point. I am lost. A total of 3 vehicles took me; one in front of me, I was in the vehicle in the middle, then my vehicle and then another vehicle. I am getting to the fort where you go right to go down to Belize or straight to Cancun. I was scared, because it seemed like they were going to Cancun and at the last minute made a right. I said for sure we are dead. When they reached to the middle of the Mexican bridge where the bridge and Belize border changes, they stopped and this time they had me getting into to my vehicle at the immigration at the Mexican border. So now I am driving my vehicle with my companion and they stopped middle of the bridge and they are in front of me. So I had to stop. My companions said well for sure this is where they'll take us. I said no, I want to believe we are at the Mexican median line of the border and they are going to leave us here. Sure enough that was it. But he asked me permission if he could deliver me to the Belize side. I said please do so. So he said with your permission I will and then he proceeded to the Belize side - the customs area where there was a police vehicle waiting. I mean I was like thank the good Lord. I prayed and I immediately started calling my family members."

So that's where the narrative ends - at 4:00 am Mexican time, which is four hours and twenty minutes after the ordeal started, he was safely back in Belize with his companions and being escorted home by police. But, it's not the end of story. We're sure many of you at home are asking - why did an experienced traveller and businessman stay on the phone with these extortionists for more than two hours? That's what we asked, and here's how he explained it:..

Jules Vasquez
"The viewer might asked why when they call the room did you willingly volunteer so much information."

Belizean Businessman - Extorted at Fiesta Inn, Chetumal
"The first thing when they called the room, they addressed by name to start with and the person told me this is the receptionist, the commandant of the police wants to speak to you."

"Jules, you would have had to be in my shoes the way he painted the situation that was happening in the room next door. He really sold me. He sold me on that story - hook line and sink - they already knew my name. He had one of those voices that you don't play with. I mean it's like they picked this guy for this role. His Spanish was impeccable and he let you know he was in command. He let you know that he was running the show and he was there to protect you and it is because of that that I fell victim in that first instance."

"When I got to the room my phone was not functioning, so even when I had to call for room service, I had to use the speaker phone. So that made the situation worse, because I could only speak on speaker phone to the first person that call who identified himself as the commandant of the police. So those in my room were hearing everything, which is putting the fear of God not only into me, but into them as well and they didn't help the situation by telling me that I must cooperate. My daughter was with me and she said 'dad, we will die, you've got to cooperate.' She was insisting that I go to the Oxxo to pay the $5,000 and she was like 'dad, its only $5,000 pesos, go do it dad, we don't want to be killed, we don't want problems with these people.' The truth is that I was beating up on myself, I agree Jules, for falling prey, so to speak, but the top navy guy says don't sir, don't feel stupid falling prey. Many have fallen and many have gone to the Oxxo. But I can tell you, the top navy man told me, had I gone to that Oxxo, or sent anyone to that Oxxo to deposit that $,5000 Pesos, that was only a gimmick to lure you to that Oxxo. I would have been snatched or the person I sent would have been snatch and then they already had the Belize numbers that they had asked me for earlier in the conversation which I had given them, which they said was for security purposes. So they would have known how to contact us and the top guy in the navy - very professional guy, told me that this is a big wing that is going through all of Mexico known as the Mexican mafia. They live by kidnapping people and it's a numbers game. They might get $50,000 pesos for one and a $100,000 pesos for another, 1 million for another. One never knows, but that it is very rare that the person kidnapped is ever returned whether you pay or do not pay."

And, indeed, no one had any idea that type of thing could happen at the Fiesta Inn. It's the classiest hotel in Chetumal, and also the most expensive. But, our businessman tells us that he is convinced hotel staff was in on the extortion. And he says that was confirmed by the Navy commander who led the operation to extract him safely from the hotel:

Belizean Businessman - Extorted at Fiesta Inn, Chetumal
"They told me how this works. The way this thing works is that they are in cahoots with someone at the hotel, who basically just puts them on to the room, then they hand the phone to a female, who then says this is the receptionist, but its someone that's not even in the building then passes it on to the commandant who is no commandant and this is all happening from a remote area while you think they are downstairs, because the receptionist just told you this is the receptionist and you received the call in your room from the hotel. So that is what sold me hook, line and sinker and he is telling me he wants to look out for my protection, the room next door has a problem, if you hear any gunfire or anything, stayed low, keep your room locked, we are here to protect you."

"I mean Jules, he got me hook, line and sinker. One of the bellhops, one of the lower tier workers came up to me and says sir, and he called me by name, he says you've come to this hotel many times before and I have, at least a dozen times. He says everyone here knows you and I want you to know that this has happened before, but the outcome hasn't been as fortunate as yours. What he meant by that, I have no idea."

As we told you last night, we called the Fiesta Inn, but they declined comment. And this particular businessman could have decided to do the same: to just not say anything. But he says he came forward for a specific reason:...

Jules Vasquez
"You've decided to come forward for a specific reason."

Belizean Businessman - Extorted at Fiesta Inn, Chetumal
"Jules, the only reason why I decided to come forward and not show my identity, my name, my face, is to protect Belizeans, because indeed as you and I have discussed Belizeans feel Chetumal is "oh, little Chetumal - that alright." It isn't the little Chetumal again Jules. Our lives are at risk because the Mexican mafia, take it from me, in is Chetumal. I will never stay again in Chetumal. I will give you the advice the navy man gave me, he was very articulate with his advice to me, because he wanted me to know, he told me 'this does not mean you don't have to come back to Mexico again, but there are certain rules you must follow, he says 1) never stay in the same hotel over and over again. 2) Whenever you are checking into a hotel, Jules we are honest innocent people, they ask for your phone number and you don't think of it - you put your cell number, never do that. Give a fake number or if you have a company you are associated, they can't do anything to that - you could give channel 7 number, so to speak. never give your personal cell number and as I said never ever stay at the same hotel over and over and if you can, use a different vehicle; use your vehicle one time, you wife vehicle one time - do that. Because somewhere somehow people are watching. People are watching your movements. The way you dress, the way you look. If you look any time of affluent look to you, and they have people that are working in the hotel that are giving them information. So, the least truthful information you can put on that registration sheet, the best and if you are a person that is known in Belize, when you doing the hotel booking - do the booking in your wife's name or somebody's name, but certainly not in your name. Those are what I advised my Belizean brothers and sisters to do to avoid this ever happening to them."

The Mexican Embassy in Belize could not be reached for comment.

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