Rebecca Roth, a prisoner in paradise

Rebecca Roth was released on march 2010.

An Open Letter from Rebecca Roth

 Monday, August 25, 2008

After speaking with my youngest son, I decided to write this open letter as an appeal for help.

In late 1998, I moved from my sheltered and successful life in Lake Oswego, Oregon to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. I did this for several reasons. I had always dreamed of living in a more tropical climate and after noticing that my asthma symptoms declined while vacationing in Mexico, I felt it was a great reason to realize that life long dream. Additionally, I had for many years wanted to have an opportunity to be more creative and run my own business. I was able to do that by opening a small boutique in Puerto Vallarta, where I designed and sold my own jewelry and sold pottery and clothing, as well. It wasn’t always easy, but it was personally fulfilling and I had a little money as a cushion while getting established.

In January of 2001, I went to work for a wealthy Canadian businessman, Alyn Waage, who ran an international investment business. I felt fortunate to have this extra income while I was also working at establishing my own fledgling business.

In April of 2001, the businessman was arrested at the Puerto Vallarta airport and charged with smuggling and money laundering. Ten days later, although he was carrying 1073 cashier’s checks valued at $4.5 million, the money laundering charges were dropped. From prison, still facing a smuggling charge, Alyn Waage asked me to continue paying his household expenses. I consulted an attorney about this and was told clearly that it was not against Mexican law to help someone while they are in prison. Also, I had read in the newspaper that he was being held for smuggling drugs. I believed that the charges were erroneous, because his business was off-shore investments and everyone knows drug dealers don’t deal with bank cashier’s checks. So, I agreed as his employee, to make the household payments on Waage’s 9 luxury condos and homes in Puerto Vallarta. On August 10, 2001, Alyn Wage was released from prison, the smuggling charges dropped, or so I was told. Later, he was rearrested.

It should be noted that in Mexico, the postal service is all but non-existent; non-functional. For example, in Puerto Vallarta, an area of approximately 250,000 people, there are eight postal carriers and they ride bicycles. At least it was like this during the time that I paid those household bills. Also, one never uses checks in Mexico. All telephone, utilities, household staff and condo association dues are paid in cash and in person, sometimes requiring a wait in line for hours to make one payment. In July 2001, two large deposits were made into my bank for the purpose of maintaining these properties indefinitely.

In February 2006, long after all the smoke had cleared and Alyn Waage had been in prison in the US for a number of years already, the Mexican AFI, the equivalent of the US FBI, came into my store and took me away, putting me in a truck and driving me through the night (a horror I will never forget) to the Reclusorio Feminal (Women’s Prison) at Puente Grande where I have been ever since.

The authorities shamelessly stole all of the money I had in my purse. I didn’t understand what they were saying for the most part due to the language barrier and there was no interpreter to assist me, as well as no legal representation or offer of a public defender. They were ale to convey to me that they wanted me to give a deposition, just as I had done back in 2002. They told me that I would be returned to Puerto Vallarta the next day after I made the declaration. I slept on a concrete floor with 16 other women, none of who spoke English. I was not, in fact, returned to Puerto Vallarta the next day. I was being held and had no idea for what or for how long. Soon, to my complete shock, I found I was being charged with money laudering and Organized Crime.

Later, when they visited, the US Consulate promised that Mexico would have to follow due process, yet they stood by as the “process” lumbered along until April 2008 when I finally had a chance to vindicate myself. I feel that I proved my innocence in front of at least five Canadian TV cameras (there were none from the US), several from the Mexican media, my Consulate and my family. The judge, Luis Nunez Sandoval, was entirely uninterested in the comprehensive material I presented, including five charts fully explaining my non participation in the charges against me. Little did I know that he had already written up his sentence BEFORE the Audience of Vista, which is the closest thing to a trial that exists in Mexico.

While my saga has moved on, my sister, who thankfully lives within driving distance of the Puente Grande prison, has faithfully brought me food, clothing and phone cards every week. Although she speaks no Spanish and fears driving in Guadalajara, she has been my rock and my connection to the outside world that I was taken from. She has tried to get the word out to the people in the US and its representatives in Congress and the media. There has been no response, save a few articles by a small handful of local newspapers in my home state of Oregon. She has drawers of correspondence to my Consulate, my US Senator from Oregon, the US Embassy here in Mexico and the media. No one even responded or visited when news of the sentence came. It confirmed my worst fears from the day I arrived here. I was doomed and no one seemed to care. This was due process.

I was sentenced as a money launderer and a member of Organized Crime to a total of nine years. Alyn Waage, the actual money launderer and organizer of this large internet fraud was sentenced to 10 years in a low security prison in North Carolina by the US Justice System.

By virtue of the fact that I still resided in Puerto Vallarta, along with the cook and bodyguard, it should be obvious that I was just an employee like them, and I was not a knowing recipient of illegal money, nor a part of any crime family. The people who received huge amounts of money, property and other valuables were family members and Canadians. I AM AN AMERICAN. In addition, they left Puerto Vallarta in 2001 and never came back. If I were guilty of this crime, I would not have stayed in Puerto Vallarta, trying to make a living with my ceramic business, then my boutique. When I bought the boutique for $10,000 US there were two locations. In less than one year, I had to close one of the locations because I didn’t make money. I went to work in Real Estate to try to make some money.

If I were a part of this “gang” I would have had access to money and would not have needed to work. As I have stated since the beginning, I did not know these people until Michelle Higgins was a customer in my ceramic shop. Why would they confide in me or any other employee that they were committing a crime? That would not have been logical or smart for criminals to do that. I knew her as a customer for almost a year before I went to work for Alyn Waage. It has been 5 years since I worked for him. He was arrested a few months after employing me to pay some bills. I still have proof of that, but no one in this country is interested in seeing the proof.

I had never been arrested in my life. After Alyn Waage was arrested, I continued to live honestly, running my business, employing Mexicans, paying IMSS, paying taxes Infonavit and volunteering to help the community by being the only American woman in the Rotary Club International, responsible for over 200 Becas per year. I don’t have a drinking, drug or other personal problems. I was conned by the people I worked for accepting them as they represented themselves; as rich Canadians with an Investment Club. I paid the bills and made travel arrangements. That is the extent of my involvement.

The Canadian cook for Alyn Waage, Brenda Martin, was convicted and sentenced for money laundering on the same day as I was. Within 10 days, the Canadian government had her on Canadian soil. She is now free and at home. Her nightmare is over. I can only dream of the day that my nightmare is over and wish that my country would come to my rescue, as well.

It is a shame, but my basic rights and those of the Canadian, Brenda Martin, were violated under the watchful eye of the US Consulate. From the very beginning, there have been violations of my rights under International Treaties, such as housing me with convicted criminals. The US Consulate was aware of this and did nothing. The Canadians insisted something be done, so they convicted us. Now, they are no longer in violation of the treaty. Of the International Treaties, I am told there were 17 violations of my rights. The Director of this prison has even expressed misgivings of the US Consulate’s ability to help one of its citizens.

This ordeal has underscored a number of things for me.

*How insignificant we are as US citizens. We seem to mean nothing to our representatives and elected politicians.
*How the agreements and treaties between countries are flagrantly disregarded.
*How dangerous Mexico is for the thousands of Americans desiring to retire here because of affordability, lifestyle and climate.
*How powerless, as a group, foreigners are here. For example, we can be expelled if we protest or speak against the corrupt government here.
*How in legal issues here, it is not possible to get a fair trial. It does not exist. Either you pay large bribes or you are condemned… no matter how much evidence there is in proof of your innocence and despite the manner in which the law is written. Corrupt officials interpret those laws to condemn. Why? Because they can’t lose their jobs if they condemn you but, they can if they don’t!

I need your help. Please write your congressman, the news media and to anyone that could help me. Please spread my story. This could happen to anyone from the US that is living in or traveling in Mexico.

I don’t belong in jail. I never did, but I have been rotting here for more than two and a half years. My family is suffering, as well. I decided to write this because of a conversation with my youngest son. He told me that “We have no hope. The system is corrupt and the US doesn’t care. You were used as a scapegoat. There’s no one to turn to and we had better face facts.”

I hope he’s wrong.

Rebecca Roth
From my cell at Puente Grande Reclusorio Feminino

Where’s the money?I find it quite interesting that the US government continues to send money to Mexico, yet most of the victims in the TriWest scheme were US citizens. Their money has never been returned and much of it is in the hands of the Mexicans. Part of the agreement Alyn Waage made with US prosecutors was to give them the money trail – which he apparently did. Where is the money? Rebecca Roth certainly doesn’t have it.

If Rebecca is charged and convicted of Use of Illicit Funds, having paid Alyn Waage’s personal bills for him, how is it that an attorney can accept a fee for defending Alyn Waage and not face the same charges? Would that attorney not have been paid from the same source of Illicit Funds? If Rebecca is guilty, then why were the charges against Alyn Waage in Mexico reduced to “being in receipt of contraband documents?” Waage was busted at the Puerto Vallarta airport with more than 1,000 undeclared cashier checks stashed in a brief case, worth a total of around 4.5 million dollars. He was in jail for four months, but when released after posting bail, promptly fled to Costa Rica. He was arrested there in September 2001 and extradited to the United States to face trial.

Where are the rights?

Rebecca Roth’s conviction in Mexico is the end result of poor representation from the very beginning, it seems. From the original attorney assigned by the court, who was ineffective, had no plan and made no visits or follow through in documentation, to the lack of any interest or action by the US Consulate. More than likely, had the Consulate acted in a timely manner, Rebecca would have been released within 72 hours. However, after pursuing the case for over two years, before taking Rebecca to trial and convicting her on baseless information, the Mexican jusdicial system needed to save face.

Now, with that conviction, Ravi Candidai at the US Consulate in Guadalajara has apparently stated to Rebecca that he cannot do anything and that the US Consulate’s role is no longer about the case, but about the sentence and that the International Treaty obligation supersedes the rights of the individual. Did he do anything from the beginning? It certainly doesn’t seem so and Rebecca was frustrated with their lack of involvement from the beginning.

I have been told that our own FBI, in their investigation of Alyn Waage and others, had no interest in Rebecca Roth. I also understand that Alyn Waage signed a statement that Rebecca Roth had no involvement or knowledge of the illegal activities. The Mexican court apparently threw that out, as Mr. Waage was not considered a credible witness.

Why is it that the US State Department does not have the ability to protect the rights of a US citizen and states that the treaty between the two countries supersedes the rights of the individual? Are those treaties not designed to protect the rights of citizens of those countries?

I believe that Rebecca was railroaded and that the US government and its agencies have done nothing to help a citizen of the United States. At every turn, those that are in a position to help a US citizen seem to either turn a blind eye or state that there is nothing that they can do, when it is their job to protect the rights of that US citizen.

I am neither an attorney nor a human rights activist. However, I have been told by individuals that followed this case very closely from the very beginning that the rights of the Canadian Brenda Martin (also simply an employee), arrested at the same time as Rebecca Roth, had her rights violated in many instances. I have been told that those rights were violated under not only the “International Covenant on Political and Civil Rights” and the Vienna Convention, but under the Mexican Constitution and Mexican law, as well. One does not have to reach very far to deduct that those same violations occurred to Rebecca Roth at the same time, in the same place and by the same individuals in authority. It is our Consulate’s duty to ensure her rights are respected under the laws of the country she is being held in. What happened?

This could happen to any of us, literally at any time, any place in the world. We are, when traveling or living in a foreign land, subject to the laws of that country but, shouldn’t our country rise to the occasion when our rights are violated? Isn’t that what we have all been raised to believe? Isn’t that why we have always traveled so freely?

Please take a moment and tell others of the plight of this woman who believed in following her dream, only to wake up on the downside of paradise. Please contact your State Representatives and Senators and ask that they do someting for one of our own.

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3 Comments

  1. Blanca Asis

     /  10/09/2011

    Horrible! yes, it happens in México ALL THE TIME. Rebecca and Florence Cassez are two of the examples. See the picture Presunto Culpable (presumed guilty), a real case, IT HAPPENS ALL THE TIME!

    Reply
  2. Blanca Asis

     /  10/09/2011

    Horrible! yes, it happens in México ALL THE TIME. Rebecca and Florence Cassez are two of the examples. See the FILM Presunto Culpable (presumed guilty), a real case, IT HAPPENS ALL THE TIME!

    Reply

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