Posts Tagged ‘Mexico’

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How extortion dropped 50% in Mexican town

January 23, 2015

Authorities report that complaints of extortion in Nezahualcóyotl, a city on the outskirts of Mexico City, fell from 172 in 2013 to 86 in 2014. Police chief Jorge Amador attributes the decline to prevention and guidance for the public about how to defend themselves from extortion attempts. Education is especially useful in combating telephone extortion (also known as virtual kidnapping schemes) in which the callers pretend to have carried out a kidnapping of a loved one and demand payment of a real ransom.

U.S. officials have begun catching onto the spreading threat as well. The FBI, New York City, and law enforcement in Texas have been trying to tell people how to deal with extortion threats by phone. That’s a step in the right direction because, if the numbers and explanation for the decline in the Nezahualcóyotl case are true, a public awareness campaign will help stop this outrageous scheme.

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Mexican extortion scheme spreads to Texas

August 14, 2014

“Virtual kidnapping” ransom schemes have migrated from Mexico to El Paso according to border city medical doctors. Criminal groups call the physicians and tell them a loved one has been kidnapped, and demand that a ransom payment be wired to Mexico.

This development is ominous because it indicates the spread of socially destabilizing extortion rackets from the Northern Triangle and Mexico into a U.S. border state. Whether drug cartels, human smugglers, cuota syndicates, street gangs, or garden variety con artists are behind the scheme isn’t really the point.

The thing to do is to educate the people who are at risk for being targeted, to persuade them to report such incidents to law enforcement, and to refuse payment. Otherwise, if the ball really gets rolling and Americans comply with ransom demands more often, then that will drive up the amounts demanded and the trend will become more difficult to stop.

Gives a whole new meaning to the phrase, “doctors without borders”… From the El Paso Times (h/t @1389):

‘Virtual kidnapping’ scam targets El Paso doctors

Scam strikes area medical professionals, does not appear cartel-related

By Daniel Borunda / El Paso Times

Posted:   08/02/2014

A terrifying telephone scam known as a “virtual kidnapping” is targeting doctors in El Paso and other Texas border cities.

An El Paso Police Department spokesman on Friday confirmed that police are aware of the extortion scam and a warning that has been circulating among the local medical community about the threatening phone calls, which purportedly come from a drug cartel.

The scheme is a new version of similar telephone scams and “there is nothing to indicate” it is cartel related, police spokesman Officer Javier Sambrano said. The number of reported doctor scam cases was not available.

Virtual kidnappings sprung up in Mexico several years ago feeding off fears of drug violence and abductions. It is called a “virtual kidnapping” because the victim is made to believe a loved one has been abducted when no kidnapping has taken place.

In the latest version, a person calls a doctor’s office and asks for a doctor by name. The caller claims to be from a drug cartel and that the cartel has kidnapped the doctor’s son or daughter. There is sometimes a crying child on the phone. The caller barks instructions, demands a ransom amount and the victim is ordered to wire the money to Mexico.

The victim does not realize no one has been actually kidnapped until after sending the money.

“It is important to take a minute to step back, try to think and remain calm,” Sambrano said.

The scam has been reported in other parts of the Texas-Mexico border.

Last month in South Texas, KRGV reported that a doctor in McAllen received a call claiming that his daughter had been kidnapped by the Zetas cartel. The caller demanded $50,000 or they would deliver his daughter’s head in a bag. Then, a girl crying and begging for her life was put on the phone. The doctor said that the call seemed frighteningly real for about 30 seconds before he became suspicious.

No ransom was paid. The doctor’s daughter was safe and had never been kidnapped.

In April, the FBI website warned about virtual kidnappings targeting U.S. citizens staying in hotels in Mexico.

“Callers impersonate themselves as cartel members or corrupt police officers who claim they’ve kidnapped a loved one and demand a ransom,” according to an FBI podcast. The victim is told to follow instructions in a scam that can run for three days. The FBI said that scammers are suspected to be Mexican prisoners using smuggled phones.

The FBI said the calls have warning signs — the calls come from an outside area code, the ransom is only accepted by wire transfer and the calls never come from the victim’s phone.

Sambrano said the calls are a variation of the “emergency” or “relative in Mexico” telephone scams that have previously hit the El Paso region. In those scams, a caller tricks a victim into believing they are a relative in Mexico. They usually start a call saying “Guess who it is?” They then claim to be the person that the victim guessed. The caller usually says they are coming to visit but then call to say they have been in an accident or arrested in Mexico and ask for money to be wired to save them from their predicament…

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Drug smugglers build fancy tunnels on US border

November 15, 2013

Gaza isn’t the only place with illicit smuggling tunnels.  More than 75 tunnels have been found along the U.S.’s southwest border since 2008 according to ABC News, which has remarkable footage from an underground mega-tunnel connecting Tijuana to San Diego:

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The top 5 terror finance films of all time

February 24, 2013

Thrillers about terrorism focus on adventure, explosions, and tension; while they may depict specific terrorist attacks and the logistics behind them, such movies rarely address the financing.  Meanwhile, movies about bank robberies, jewel heists, and corporate malfeasance show how bad guys finance themselves, but these financial crime films tend to boil down to greed, or the acquisition of money for personal use, rather than raising money for broader social objectives.

We are left with a handful of movies dealing with the actual financing of terrorism or rebel insurgencies, and those that do often address the subject briefly.  Although it’s tough to find movies that incorporate both elements, it’s worth the investment.  These five movies help illuminate important concepts in terrorist financing in ways that news articles and scholarly research cannot, and in ways that simple bank heist movies can’t either.  They’re also sure to entertain you along the way.

By the way, it took a long time to compile this short list, so please acknowledge Money Jihad if this ranking is reproduced elsewhere.

  1. “Casino Royale”—Le Chiffre is a bankroller to the world’s terrorists.  But he is being pursued by terrorists who want access to their funds immediately.  Le Chiffre sets up a high stakes poker game in Montenegro to get more money and restore his credibility with his terrorist clients.  His rival?  None other than James Bond, 007, who enters the match with money fronted by the British government.  If Bond wins, the international financing of terrorism will be setback; if he looses, the government will have directly funded terrorists.  While the men play their game, is Bond’s love interest being forced to work for an unnamed terrorist group in Algeria?This film shows how skill, charm, and a little bit of luck by Britain’s best spy can triumph over shadowy but well-connected forces behind the international financing of terrorism.
  2. “The Path to 9/11”—The television miniseries (especially Part I) that aired on ABC in 2006 includes an ensemble cast and multiple story lines, one of which focuses on the money trail that led U.S. intelligence to recognize the threat posed by Osama Bin Laden in the 1990s.  The trail begins with the cunning bomb maker, Ramzi Yousef, who bombs the World Trade Center and becomes and international fugitive.  From the Philippines to Pakistan, Yousef works on his explosives, causing mayhem wherever he goes.  He’s planning a massive attack–bombs detonating aboard flights, but to do it he needs money—real money—for materials, equipment, electronics, and men.  His comrade tells him about a Saudi millionaire who can help. Meanwhile, tired of going after “small fish,” the FBI’s John O’Neill and other senior members of the U.S. counter-terrorism community try to find out who’s funding Yousef.  The U.S. gets a nervous informant who is about to depart with Yousef on a trip to Afghanistan, where Yousef says they can meet his financier, whom he calls “the tall one.” The money chase story line earns this miniseries its place on the list, but even without it, the movie is a devastating portrayal of bureaucracy and politics getting in the way of mid and lower level agents who are trying to stop Bin Laden 9/11.  This important film is unfairly maligned by liberals who have flooded the Internet with an endless stream of angry, overly politicized criticism.
  3. “The Long Good Friday”—Unbeknownst to an English mafia boss, one of his lieutenants delivers cash to the Irish Republican Army, but skims a little for himself along the way.  The lieutenant ends up dead, and the boss, played by Ed Hoskins, and his loved ones wind up the target of a seemingly inexplicable bombing campaign. It turns that out another of his key gang members, a real estate developer who employs Irish workers, was the one responsible for the ongoing payments to the IRA.  While the bombs are exploding, Hoskins is trying to complete a major business deal with an American investor played by Eddie Constantine (who also appears in another noteworthy terrorist financing movie, “The Third Generation,” as a West German businessman who funds terrorism in order to sell equipment to security forces fighting it.)  His best advisers tell him to back down, but Hoskins thinks he can go toe-to-toe against one of the most dangerous terrorist organizations in the world.  It’s a tense, exciting film, and it’s somewhat unique among movies for providing a glimpse into how front companies can be used to fund terrorism. Hoskins was widely praised for his performance, and Helen Miren who plays his wife is absolutely superlative.
  4. “Baader Meinhof Complex”—The movie portrays the terrorist acts committed by the Red Army Faction, or Baader-Meinhof group, in West Germany in the late 1960s and ’70s.  The group also carried out bank robberies which they regarded as legitimate “expropriation” to finance the revolution—a common Marxist terrorist fundraising technique.  Ultimately the first generation of the Red Army Faction fell apart.  It’s a well-done film that illustrates how the terrorists’ search for bigger and better attacks ultimately destroys and shatters not just the lives of their victims, but their own lives too.
  5. “Nighthawks”—Wulfgar, an international terrorist mercenary—sets off a bomb in England, striking “a blow against British colonialism” in Northern Ireland.  But children are killed in the attack, and the IRA refuses to pay him.  Struggling to overcome a shortage of pay and his damaged reputation, Wulfgar gets plastic surgery and sets off for New York.  There he hopes he can launch a major terrorist attack that will be covered by the news media capital of the world, and prove his worth again to international terrorist organizations that would hire him again if he succeeds.  He is aided by “Shakka Kappour,” a ruthless Moroccan terrorist in her own right.  Only cop-on-the-beat Sylvester Stallone can stop them, with assistance from his partner Billy Dee Williams and counter-terrorist expert LeGard, who does as good a job as anybody since Col. Mathieu from “The Battle of Algiers” in getting inside the mind of terrorists to defeat them at their own game.  Explosions, dramatic tension, and great pacing earn this overlooked thriller a place in the top five.

Honorable mention:  “A Bullet for the General”–Chuncho (or sometimes Chucho) and his bandits traffic arms for General Elías, a rebel leader during the Mexican Revolution.  Chuncho is joined by “El Niño,” an American man with mysterious motives.  They conduct a good, old-fashioned train robbery, seize rifles from a military garrison after assassinating its commandant, and dispossess the richest man in San Miguel of his wealth.  The film may not be the best of the Italian produced “Zapata westerns” set during the Mexican Revolution which all touched on similar themes, but it is one is quite germane to how an insurgent movement is armed and financed.

A problem worth noting about terror finance movies is that about half of them are designed convince audiences that terrorism is an artificial phenomenon created and funded by capitalists to increase profits circuitously.  While movies in this mold such as “The Third Generation,” “Burn!” and “The International” are relevant to the subject of financing terrorism or a revolution, and are entertaining, they are based on fundamentally flawed premises about the nature of the threat and cannot be wholly recommended.

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Jihadists exploit Latin America to finance terror

December 17, 2012

Latin America has experienced a possible increase in terror financing activities by radical Islamists throughout 2012.  Consider the developments that have been revealed this year:

  • In September, published reports indicated that a Hezbollah camp in Nicaragua is training 30 operatives and is laundering money.
  • The Venezuela chapter of Hezbollah is using Panama for bulk cash smuggling for follow-on transfer to Beirut.
  • Some goods, possibly even missile components, are being exported via Panama directly to Iran.
  • The use of the Venezuelan air carrier Conviasa to smuggle contraband through Africa to Europe earned it an “operational ban” from the EU in April.  Hezbollah profited from the Conviasa flights.  It is unclear whether the ban interferes with Conviasa’s African flights.
  • Cuba was listed again by the U.S. in 2012 as a state sponsor of terrorism partly for the continued safe haven Cuba provides to terrorist groups FARC and ETA.  Havana is now also letting IHH, the radical Islamist Turkish charity that has been banned by Germany for its financing of Hamas, build a mosque in Cuba.
  • A trio of Hezbollah agents in Mexico was exposed during an arrest of one operative who had previously been convicted in the U.S. for credit card fraud that funded terrorism.
  • Ecuador was blacklisted in June by FATF, the international financial watchdog, for failing to make progress against money laundering and terrorist financing.
  • In its annual report in July, the U.S. State Department said, “Brazil has not criminalized terrorist financing in a manner that is consistent with the FATF Special Recommendation II.”

Given its Western heritage and deep Catholic faith, Latin America can and should be a natural ally in the war against Islamic terror.  Its energy resources make it a natural counterweight to the oil powerhouse of the Middle East.

But this wonderful opportunity to present a united trans-American front against jihad is being jeopardized by attitudes of permissiveness, ignorance, and political correctness.  American politicians like Michelle Bachman and Connie Mack who recognize the threat are written off as know-nothing xenophobes.  But the news this year indicates that they are correct.

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Hezbollah credit card fraudster re-arrested

September 23, 2012

Rafic Labboun, a.k.a. Wilhelm Dick, has been arrested with fellow Hezbollah operatives in the Yucutan peninsula, Mexico.  Labboun had previously been convicted in federal court for a $100,000 credit card scheme.  Take a listen to the report from CBS radio’s San Francisco affiliate:

An imam no less!  Who would know better Islam’s call to defraud the West of its wealth for the cause of jihad?

By the way, isn’t this further evidence of Hezbollah’s presence in Mexico?