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Monday, August 1, 2011

Help! My 16 year old is calling from a Mexican Prison

Visions of Terror 

I’m sure all of you at some point have received an email from a diplomat or wealthy foreigner in Nigeria who is asking for a mere $300 to help them move millions of dollars from his homeland.  He graciously offers a percentage of this as a reward for helping him in a letter typed in all caps with gross spelling and grammatical errors. 

Here’s the latest twist in our too connected world and it happened to us just this week. My In-laws live in Southern California. We live in New Jersey.  My In-laws are independent and both over 85, God bless them.

Imagine my mother-in-law’s surprise when the phone rang in the middle of the day and it was a young man who said, “Hello Grandma?  It’s Miles (my son’s name). I’m in Cancun.”

My mother-in-law has had the good fortune of traveling just about everywhere in the world and launched into a chat about her visiting Cancun before the fancy hotels were built and how interesting the ruins of Tulum are and not to miss them.

Then this young man, my supposed son, said, “Listen Grandma, I’ve got a problem. I went to Mexico with a friend of mine who won a free 4 day trip to Cancun and took me with him.”

“How terrific!”

“Well the thing is, his cousin picked us up at the airport but we were stopped by the police as we were leaving and his cousin had a little bag of pot that the police found. I didn’t have any drugs and I only get one phone call and I don’t want to call my parents and upset them. “

“Oh my.”

At this point another person spoke, identifying himself as someone from the consulate office (really, in Cancun?) and assuring my In-Laws that Miles was not in any serious legal trouble, but he needed to post bail so he could leave the country. They were told that they could wire $3400 from their local Western Union, which they knew was in a Rite Aid drug store very close to them. Yes, the callers knew this ahead of time.

“Miles” now got back on the phone with my Mother-in-law and begged her to please not tell his parents.

The Walk of Shame
My mother-in-law assured him that she “crossed her heart, she would never tell them and noted that “Miles” sounded different.

“That’s because he’s been crying M’am” the other voice on the line said. He then instructed her to wire the money to the Western Union office in Mexico City.

“Why Mexico City if you’re in Cancun?” she asked.

The gentleman told her that Miles' lawyer, a Mr. Goldberg, had his main offices in Mexico City but if she had any further questions, to please call him and gave her a phone number. He added that since “Miles” had no drugs he could get out but they shouldn’t say anything about drugs when they send the money to Mexico because it could be put on his record

She then went to my father-in-law and recounted the whole tale. My father-in-law picked up the phone and called the number she had been given.  This gentleman answered the phone and when my father-in-law asked if this was a scam was told,
“No sir, it certainly is not.”

So, my very addled in-laws drove to their bank, took out $4000 in cash (anticipating fees and incidentals their dear grandchild might need) and drove to their local Rite Aid per  instructed.  Unfortunately, there was no parking available so they drove down the block as bit to their local Trader Joes. This lot charged for parking but if you got your ticket stamped at Trader Joes, parking is free. So naturally my mother-in-law went into Trader Joes and bought a bottle of wine to get her ticket stamped. I should mention that they are both Depression babies and watch what they spend very carefully.

They were naturally very upset about the whole and had a conversation about whether they should call us or not. They didn’t want to tell my husband that his son is in trouble--  since my Mother in law swore to “Miles” they would take this to their grave -- but they decided to call and check to see if Miles was out of the country without revealing why. 

While she was in the store, my father-in-law called my husband.

“Ric, Hi! It’s Dad. I’m just calling to make sure you got the package I sent last week.”

“Oh, hi Dad, how are you? Yes we did, thanks. ”

“So how is everybody doing?”

“Everyone is fine. We’re excited about coming to visit you in two weeks. Carol is out grocery shopping and Miles is at his friend Richie’s house.”

“Really? He’s not in Mexico?”

“What are you talking about Dad?”

A gentle villian 
And then the cat was out of the bag.  So if my father in law hadn’t made the call or my husband not happen to be home, some guys in Mexico would be $4000 richer.

When my son heard the story he called his grandparents and thanked them for helping fake Miles out.

“Hey,  if you were willing to send fake Miles $4000. Would you like to send it real Miles?”

Ha! Only if you’re calling from a Mexican prison kid.