Sunday, June 07, 2009

color me aghast

"It's an Irish tale, not an American one."

A friend always begins stories, which do not have a happy ending, with that warning.

Following that tradition, I suppose I should say this is a Mexican tale with an American twist.

Just as I was packing to leave Salem in April, a sales notice appeared on the Melaque message board. A fellow who owns several bungalows was selling his older van.

For a month, he kept the sales talk alive.

And then the tone changed.

In late May, he announced the van was no longer for sale because one of his renters (or an acquaintance) had stolen it along with some valuable personal property.

That sounds like your garden variety of theft. But here comes the twist.

Within days, the owner received an email from the thief stating that he could have the van back for $10,000 MX.

In one of my previous career lives, I was a criminal defense attorney. So, I am used to auto thefts. Car strips. Joy rides.

But van-napping? Now, that was different.

Then the plot really thickens.

On Saturday morning, the owner received the following note at his house. Paraphrasing would completely lose the chutzpah that drips off this communication.

Hi [owner], how are you? Your family? Well, I hope that all is well for for everyone. I am sending you the list with the new prices of the things that you asked for.

Van 10,000
Laptop 5,000
Nintendo 3,000
Çamera 2,000

You told me before that you would accept the van, if you would like anything else, just add it to the list, here are the keys to the van, let me know what else you would like and I will leave them in the van. Tell me what else you are interested in and mail them (to an email address) and I'll let you know the way the payment can be made and once the bill has been paid I'll tell you where you can pick up the van with the articles inside it.

With nothing more for the moment, you can contact me at the email address for any information that you need.

Hoping that you and yours are well,

[the thief]

I have read that several times now. And it still astonishes me.

"The new prices of the things you asked for?" This is a ransom note. Not a Costco shopping list.

It almost sounds like a bad Grade B movie -- possibly starring Jan-Michael Vincent.

Or worse. It is the type of note that Kim Jong-il would send to some functionary just before the arrival of a poison chop stick.

You may ask, where are the police in all this? To ask that question is to answer it.

In the interim, the van owner continues to entertain us with frequent updates on the message board. If there is a subtext here, it is certainly not apparent.

But it has certainly frightened people at church. Burglaries were the talk of the day last Sunday.

The moral?

Did you forget? It is a Mexican tale.

Morals tomorrow; parody tonight.


Calypso said...

Engaging a thief has a dangerous side to it. Now if the owner paid the ransom on the camera first to capture pictures of the thief that might have a nice twist to it.

The owner might consider asking if the thief has anyone other stuff to sell from other victims - get a real laundry list ;-)

What Forum is this btw?

Steve Cotton said...

Calypso -- He knows exactly who the thief is. But the police are not interested in getting involved. The forum is the TomZap Melaque forum.

Felipe said...

Welcome to Mexico! But wait! It´s not worse. It´s just different!

No value judgments allowed.

Steve Cotton said...

Felipe -- No relativism here. The thief is just that -- a thief. And a scummy one, at that.

Islagringo said...

Easily the most incredible thing I have heard since living here.

Rosas Clan in Tulum said...

WoW. I cannot wait to hear what happens next. Atleast politness went a long way. Not really in the right direction but ... funny stuff. I do hope he gets his stuff back.

I do love when people ask... "what about the police?"

Steve Cotton said...

Islagringo -- And I thought of you when I read about this. TRuly an expatriate's nghtmare.

Rosas Clan in Tulum -- It gets worse. The owner's Mexican neighbors saw the whole thing happening -- and did nothing.

Anonymous said...

If it wasn't so incredible I would still be laughing....only in Mexico would the concept of vannapping come to fruition. Actually, it's fairly ingenious...a perpetually low maintenance hostage.

Nancy said...

I think I'll come back in a couple of months and see what you're up to. Time for a break for me.

Steve Cotton said...

Francisco -- I am not certain that this could only happen in Mexico. I had some clients in Oregon who just might try a hare-brained scheme like this.

Nancy -- Come back soon. I will muiss your comments.

Charley said...

Is is Possible that this whole thing started because the renter perceived that the landlord had ripped him off in some way?
Just asking the question.

Steve Cotton said...

Charley -- I have no way of knowing. But that is one subtext possibility, isn't it?

Joe S. said...

Okay, why are the church people frightened? Are they expats? Is this an unusual mexican tale?

CancunCanuck said...

Not unheard of, but still crazy. Why won't the police get involved? They may have their faults, but usually they at least put up a pretense of trying to do their legitimate jobs. If he knows who this guy is, does he not have any idea where he might be with his stuff? Strange strange strange.

Constantino said...

Sounds like a dangerous game of chess the fellow is playing...some people down here would welcome a chance to play the game for much higher stakes!

maria luz said...

Asi es Mexico. You never know what to expect next since the crooks have unlimited creative energy.

Another new game I recently read about consists of locals who have family living in the U.S. being kidnapped and held for ransom. The idea being the family members in the U.S. have "lots of money" and it is easy for them to pay up. One victum was a frail, 80 year old man who has a daughter living en el otro lado. His whole town has been cleared out by half. Of the 400 homes, 200 now stand empty as folks have fled to avoid being kidnapped. Dios mio!

One can't help but wonder when the ladrones will decide to pick on the "rich Gringos" who have family in the U.S. who are "so rich". Food for thought.

So far, this racket is not commonplace even here in the wild west of Texas. But give it time.


John said...

The ransom game is also played in San Miguel de Allende. If you find your license plates are missing, and checking at the police station establishes that they are not being held for a parking violation, the next move is to run an ad on the radio station offering a reward. The person who "found" them will come forward and return them. The same is true for dogs, but the reward offered has to be higher.

Jan said...

There were thefts and kidnappings with ransom happening down in Nayarit when we lived there though we were never affected personally. It is crazy....kind of amusing as long as it's not me.

Chrissy y Keith said...

we learned long ago to weld the plates to the vehicle.

Anonymous said...

Hopefully the kidnappers aren't cutting off bits of the van and sending them in oily envelopes to prove they have it.

That would be gristly.


Kim G
Boston, MA
Where kidnapping of any kind is fortunately rare to nonexistent.

Steve Cotton said...

Joe -- Crime everywhere is an exception. That is why it always makes a good tale. But there are elements in this story that I would not expect to find in Lake Oswego. Oregon City, perhaps.

Cancuncanuck -- I do not know why the police are reluctant. I suspect there is a personal subtext here that is not apparent.

Constantino -- If it is chess, I would think that someone's queen should be checkmated soon.

Maria Luz -- Who knows what lies in store? But I am an optimist.

John -- Just as long as no one starts taking upper plates for ransom.

Jan -- Spooky. But rare.

Chrissy -- My whole bumper is plastic. How do I weld to that? Super glue? Possible, I guess.

Kim -- I was wondering when your favorite topic would cause you to comment. But the thief is following your suggestion -- in a way. The keys were included in the ransom note. A true teaser.