A Canuck in Mexican Jail

I've recently been reading about the case of Brenda Martin, a 51 year old Canadian woman who has been in prison in Guadalajara for almost two years. She has been accused of participating in an investment scheme that was orchestrated by her former boss, Canadian Alyn Waage who was convicted of bilking 15,000 people out of 60 million USD.

When I first read the Canadian press about this incident, I was skeptical, I have met enough ex-pats here who ARE dishonest and downright criminal that I didn't find it hard to believe that she would be involved in the scam. After reading more about what happened, I am not so sure, it does sound like she is an innocent woman who got herself in a sticky situation. Ms. Martin had been working for Mr. Waage as his cook in his mansion in Puerto Vallarta in the year 2000. He fired her (apparently she offended his mother) but gave her a year's salary as compensation. She took $10,000 USD and invested in his business, apparently not knowing that it was fraudulent. He returned the money to her, though it is unclear to me whether he did that before or after he was arrested.

Mr. Waage is now spending ten years in jail for his ponzi scheme and has written affidavits stating that Ms. Martin knew nothing of the scheme and was not part of any crime. Ms. Martin has spent 22 months in jail and according to her lawyers, has had her civil rights violated. She has never been provided with a translator and does not speak Spanish. There have been allegations that her health is at risk in the prison, though investigations show that she is being monitored and is not at risk for any health complications. Visitors state that she is not doing well in jail (um, who would be?), has lost a lot of weight and is despondent.

This week the court convened to review the charges against her and the charges that her civil rights were violated. She and her lawyers had high hopes of her being released from jail, but the court announced it would take up to 60 days for a decision to be reached. Apparently when she received this news she was shattered, unable to walk or speak with the prospect of two more months in prison ahead of her.

While some people believe that the Canadian government has not done anything to help her situation, Canadian officials claim that they have been urging Mexican officials to move forward on this case and release Ms. Martin so she can return to Canada.

I'm sure that Ms. Martin is not the first, nor will she be the last victim of con artists like Waage or Michael Kelly. Unfortunately, she has lost her freedom, not just her money. This is not just a Mexican occurrence, ponzi schemes happen all over the world. So please, please, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If you are in Mexico and someone is asking you to invest, DO NOT SIGN ANYTHING until you have done your research. PROFECO is the government agency in Mexico that protects consumers and that includes foreigners. If you ever have a doubt about a project or real estate or time share, contact PROFECO and they should be able to set things straight for you. If you are in a tourist town, most likely there will be someone at PROFECO that speaks English. Don't be gullible people, look where you can end up.

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