Posts Tagged ‘mexico’

Yuridia in Costa Rica

November 27, 2009

Excited to return to the first country outside of Mexico where she appeared, smiling and desirous of further exploiting her stay in Costa Rica, singer Yuridia spoke to a national newspaper about the reasons that brought her to Costa Rica.

She made allusion to her new recording titled “Nada es color de rosa” (Nothing is rosy), and her new facet as a mother and woman.

The interview went something like this:

What are your expectations?
I hope to get to know the country a bit more because last time I went to the hotel where the show took place and that was it.  I am happy that I can spend more time here and talk about my record.

What memories do you have?
Costa Rica left its mark in Yuridia’s history.  It was my first time outside Mexico and the truth is that I was very scared.  I did not know that they listened to my music here.  I was fantastic.

What makes this record different?
It’s my second album with original recordings.  It was released a month ago and it is the most personal recording I have done.  It talks a lot about what I have experienced in the past two years and what I want my life to be in the future.  I think the people will be able to identify with it.

What has public response been like?

It has been very good.  We already have a gold record with the song “Irremediable” (Hopeless).  It makes me very happy.

When can we see you in concert?

It would be incredible, but no have been set so I don’t worry about it (she laughs).  For now, I’m on tour in Mexico and the U.S…. once I leave here.

How much has the Yuridia how left “La Academia” (The Academy) to the woman we see today?  Well, I have lived through many important things since I left The Academy.  Now I understand things better and I learned things that I did not know before.  I appreciate time with my family, friends and even being alone.

How are you doing as a mom?  I am doing very well, happy.  Phoenix, my son, just turned three.

How far can an artist stand the siege by the press like it happens in Mexico?  It was hard.  At first, it was quite difficult, but it’s been several years and I have managed to draw my line in the sand and set a limit.  I think we learned to get along and be calm.

The United States Ignores World Court and Executes Mexican Citizen.

August 7, 2008

Jose Medellin, a Mexican national who was being held in the Texas Department of Corrections was executed yesterday in Huntsville penitentiary. He was put to the death for the sexual assault and homicide of two teenage girls, in spite of international outcries for a new trial due to the irregularities in the case.

“I am sorry if my acts have caused you pain. I hope that this gives you the closure you wanted. Never harbor hate,” were Medellin’s last words before the people who had gathered together to witness the grisly event. Nine minutes later, at 21:57 p.m., he was pronounced dead.

Texas authorities carried out the execution after the Federal Supreme Court rejected the prisoner’s request for commutation in a decision handed down three hours after the scheduled time for the application of the lethal injection.

The International Justice Tribunal, better known as the World Court, was demanding review of the case and affirmed that Medellin and 50 other Mexican nationals sentenced to death in the United States should receive new hearings in US courts to determine if the Consular Treaty of 1963 had been violated in their detentions.

The Mexican government denounced the execution and said that it had sent a protest note to the State Department. In a communiqué, Mexico affirmed that the execution violated international rights and could set precedent for Mexicans detained in the United States.

“The Mexican government will continue insisting that the United States has an obligation to grant review and reconsider the death sentences of the other Mexican nationals,” said the Secretary of the Exterior.

The European Council labeled the execution as an “arrogant provocation” by the United States and an “a la carte” application of international rights. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights “deplored” that United States justice did not acknowledge its requests to let the condemned man live.

President George W. Bush had requested that state governments review the cases questioned by the World Court, but the Supreme Court said earlier this year that neither the President nor the World Court could detain actions considered legal in Texas.

Medellin, who was 33, affirmed that he was denied access to the Mexican Consulate when he was arrested for the rape and murder of Elizabeth Pena, who was 16 and Jennifer Ertman, who was 14. These atrocious acts and their subsequent consequences began in Houston 15 years ago.

TicosLand.com, the leading web directory in Costa Rica, isn’t here to lay judgment. That was done by the state of Texas when it imposed the death penalty on Mr. Medellin. However, we call our reader’s attention to what happened with Chere Lyn Tomayko not too long ago, a case which was duly reported in the TicosLand.com blog. The United States was resorting to international law not too long ago in demanding her return. We believe that the United States cannot pick and choose when it will and will not follow international law. If it will only follow international law to its benefit, then there is no sense in having international law, and each country can do as it wishes without fear of repercussion. Wait a minute! Didn’t the United States rely on international law to justify both invasions of Iraq? We will allow our readers to decide what’s what.

Things Usually go From the Sublime to the Ridiculous.

July 30, 2008

In Washington, D.C., a businessman arrived at the Treasury Department carrying a suitcase stuffed with about $5.2 million. Unfortunately, the bills were decomposing, nearly unrecognizable, and he asked to swap them for a cashier’s check.

He said the money came from Mexico; exactly where in Mexico was not explained.  This sublime occurrence was unusual because money like this normally arrives in an armored truck or insured shipping container after a bank burns, a vault floods or stored money deteriorates to the point where it can no longer be used as legal tender. It doesn’t just show up at the visitor’s entrance on a Tuesday morning with a highly unlikely story behind it. But the banking habits of Franz Felhaber had stopped making sense to the government long ago.

For the past few years, authorities say, he and his family have popped in and out of U.S. banks, looking to change about $20 million in buried treasure for clean cash.

The money is always the same — decaying $100 bills from the 1970s and 1980s.

It’s the story that keeps changing:

_It was an inheritance.

_Somebody dug up a tree and there it was.

_It was found in a suitcase buried in an alfalfa field.

_A relative found a treasure map.

No matter where it came from or who found it, that buried treasure stands to make someone rich.

It could also send someone to jail, likely Felhaber and family!

Felhaber is a customs broker, a middleman. His company, F.C. Felhaber & Co., is just minutes away from the bridge between El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. Tens of billions of dollars of Mexican goods cross that bridge each year, aided by people such as Felhaber who navigate the customs bureaucracy. Customs brokers don’t own the stuff that comes into the United States. They just make sure it gets here.

So it is with the $20 million. Felhaber says the money is not his. A Mexican relative, Francisco Javier Ramos Saenz-Pardo, merely sought help exchanging money that had been buried for decades, Felhaber says. “To be very clear on this matter: In the beginning, I was not told what it was,” Felhaber said in one of several telephone interviews with The Associated Press.

Money petrifies after sitting underground that long and Felhaber said it looked like a brick of adobe. The Treasury will exchange even badly damaged money, but Felhaber said Saenz-Pardo did not want to handle the process himself. “Imagine a Mexican family bringing money that is damaged and the government calling it a drug deal,” Felhaber said.

It gets even better. If the goal were to avoid unwarranted attention, he went about it all wrong. Rather than making a simple — albeit large — exchange at the Treasury, Felhaber allegedly began trying to exchange smaller amounts at El Paso-area banks, raising suspicion every time.

The first stop was the Federal Reserve Bank in El Paso, where authorities say Felhaber appeared with an uncle, Jose, and an aunt, Esther. In her purse, Esther carried $120,000. She told bank officials there were millions more, discovered while digging to expand a building in Juarez, according to U.S. court records filed by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Banks normally refer such requests to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, an arm of the Treasury. But employees worried that, with so much cash, the three might be robbed on their way home. So, the bank accepted the money and wired $120,000 to an account in his uncle’s name, Jose Carrillo-Valles, according to a government affidavit.

Felhaber was back at it again weeks later, this time at a Bank of America branch. Customs officials say he unsuccessfully tried to persuade a bank vice president to dispatch an armored truck to the Mexican border to pick up millions of dollars. How could anyone expect any reasonable bank to comply with such a request?

Felhaber denies that conversation took place. But he is tough to pin down on details. At times he seems specific on a point (“There is a $20 million inheritance,”) only to contradict himself minutes later, saying the amount is “nowhere near that” and he has no idea where the money came from. As TicosLand said earlier, it goes from the sublime to the utterly ridiculous.

Soon after the Bank of America visit, a man bearing a striking resemblance to Felhaber walked into a Bank of the West branch. This time, however, authorities say the customer identified himself as Ken Motley and said he discovered millions while excavating a tree in Chihuahua, Mexico. Bank employees refused to exchange any money, despite two follow-up phone calls — once with a Spanish accent, once without — to try to set up an exchange.

The mysterious Ken Motley also appeared at the First National Bank, telling employees that a friend had discovered $20 million buried in an alfalfa field, investigators say. Felhaber says he is not Ken Motley. Customs investigators say a Bank of the West employee identified Felhaber’s picture as that of Ken Motley. “That’s an absolute lie,” Felhaber said. “That would be a horrendous miscarriage of justice.”

It’s unclear which transaction caught investigators’ attention. Most of the tens of thousands of exchanges of mutilated money each year are routine. Natural disasters create a lot of inquiries. Children of the Depression have kept money out of banks, only to see it eaten by rodents in their attics or destroyed in fires. A surprising number of people accidentally shred greeting cards with money inside. But authorities say there are warning signs that trigger investigations. Making a series of small exchanges is one. Bringing mutilated money from abroad is another.

“That is one of the things we are extra concerned about: This process being used to launder money from illegal activities,” said Leonard R. Olijar, the chief financial officer of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. “That’s one of our factors that we use to make a case suspicious.”

Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents questioned Felhaber in October 2005. According to a government summary of that interview, Felhaber said he believed the money was the result of a 1970s Mexican land deal. The money was buried in a coffin, he said, until Saenz-Pardo — the relative who brought him the money in the first place — discovered a map leading him to the buried treasure. Felhaber said he didn’t want to do anything illegal and was merely getting a cut of whatever he exchanged. He now says he was mistaken in his interviews with investigators. If you are going to talk with investigators, it is usually a good practice to have your story straight. Of course, it’s even better if the story you are telling is the truth, in which case, you will not have to rehearse different versions

“I told them, ‘I suspect this is where it’s from but I didn’t know,'” he said. “They take you to your word like you’re supposed to remember every single thing every single time.” While you cannot remember every little detail, the truth remains the truth no matter what, a theme with which Mr. Felhaber isn’t even remotely acquainted

Maybe it was the visit from investigators or maybe someone realized the bank visits weren’t working, but Felhaber apparently changed strategies.

In January 2006, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing received a package containing about $136,000 from Jose Carrillo-Valles, Felhaber’s uncle. Felhaber’s business was listed as the return address. The letter explained the money had been stored in a basement for 22 years.

Though customs officials were suspicious by then, there was no clear evidence of a crime, just a lot of unanswered questions. So, two months later, the Treasury mailed a check, which was deposited into Carrillo-Valles’ account. Following the money, investigators interviewed Carrillo-Valles and his wife. Each denied ever sending or receiving the money, according to a government affidavit.

As for the $120,000 wired to Jose’s account from the Federal Reserve a year earlier, they allegedly said it was an inheritance. Esther said Jose’s mother had recently died. Authorities don’t believe the inheritance story. For starters, they say Jose’s mother was still alive when the $120,000 was exchanged. They also traced a wire transfer from Jose’s account to someone named Saenz-Pardo shortly after it was deposited.

Customs investigators now believed Carrillo-Valles was acting as an intermediary, taking a cut of the money and sending the rest to Saenz-Pardo or someone else in Mexico.

Twice, reporters called Carrillo-Valles on his cell phone to ask about the arrangement and confirm his discussions with investigators. First, he said he did not speak English. When a Spanish-speaking reporter called back, he said he could not hear her, and hung up.

In April 2007, the case moved from being suspicious to becoming a criminal investigation. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials called the Justice Department, saying Felhaber had just arrived in person at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing with about $1.2 million.

It’s not illegal to find money. Depending on where it’s found, there might be a bureaucratic process to follow or taxes to be paid, but the discovery itself is not a crime.

There are strict rules, however, about bringing money into the United States. Import documents identified the $1.2 million as belonging to Jose Carrillo-Valles. Based on their investigation so far, authorities believe that was a lie — a violation that carries up to five years in prison.

But Washington federal prosecutor William Cowden decided to wait. Maybe Felhaber would return with even more.

It paid off. This April, Felhaber was back at the Treasury, this time with a suitcase containing $5.2 million. Investigators say they have found no import documents filed for this deal, a violation of cash smuggling laws that also carries up to five years in prison.

Prosecutors moved in. Felhaber’s two Treasury visits gave them probable cause to seize the money — both the $1.2 million and the $5.2 million.

They told a federal magistrate in June that they suspected it was all drug money that had been buried or hidden inside a wall for decades.

“Given that the money is coming north from Mexico, that both conflicting and cockamamie stories have been told about its origins, and that all the stories of how it got to be found are fantastical, I strongly suspect that the Felhaber currency is the proceeds of illegal bulk narcotics sales,” ICE investigator Stephen A. Schneider told the magistrate.

___

Felhaber says he’s still not sure what all the fuss is about. At times he says he has no idea where the money came from, but he is always certain it has nothing to do with drugs.

None of the documents filed in federal court accuses Felhaber or his relatives of being involved in drugs. They leave open the possibility that somebody merely came across a cache of drug money, forgotten or abandoned in the Mexican desert.

In the coming weeks, the Justice Department plans to seek criminal forfeiture of the seized $6.4 million. That means Felhaber and his family will have the opportunity to come to Washington to ask for their money back.

If they do, they’ll have to explain where it came from. And they’ll have to sort through some of the inconsistent stories for a federal judge. Felhaber bristles at the suggestion there have been inconsistencies.

“The story has never changed,” he said. “I don’t know how it’s changed.”

Cowden, the federal prosecutor, said he doesn’t know what to expect.

“Some of these cases, nobody ever comes forward,” he said.

If so, the buried treasure will become government property.

Or at least some of it. Perhaps there is another $14 million out there, muddy and waiting to be exchanged.

Does Felhaber know if there’s any money left?

On that as with anything else involving Felhaber, it’s hard to get a straight answer.

There were a lot of stories like this when TicosLand was just a little bitty Tico. It was said that my great grandfather, grandfather and grand uncle found a buried treasure while they were building a house in Heredia. Of course, this is about 80 years ago, so the story has mutated over the years in the details, but the core remains the same. These three ancestors worked construction. While excavating, they came upon a pot filled with gold coins and divided the treasure.

My grandfather did go on a spending spree. He bought some land, a horse drawn carriage and furniture for the home. There is an essence of truth in the story. If the reader has paid close attention to the above, there is no essence of truth. But we will leave it up to our readers in Costa Rica and worldwide whether there is any truth to the matter. At TicosLand, we want to keep you informed of world events, even if they sound utterly ridiculous at times.