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Thousands of Dollars Have Disappeared from San Miguel Expat Accounts

MONEX4

MONEX3

By Jesus Aguado

Dozens of expatriates in San Miguel de Allende invested their money with Grupo Financiero Monex. This company, which operates in various Mexican states, including Guanajuato, Querétaro, Jalisco, and Monterrey, offered financial and bank services in San Miguel de Allende until 2015, when it closed its offices in the city. However, it continued to offer banking services to Sanmiguelenses from its offices in Querétaro at least until 2018.

It was in 2018 that a number of Monex’s San Miguel clients became aware that their investment accounts had been emptied, according to what some of them have told Atención. We approached Monex and some of the clients who said their money had disappeared. What follows are their stories.

The company

Grupo Financiero Monex’s website says that it is a 100 percent Mexican company that offers high-quality financial products and trustworthy services for clients in México and abroad.

“With more than 32 years’ presence in the country, Monex is an innovative institution, comprised of three financial entities: Monex Bank, Monex Brokerage House, and Monex,” says the website. “It operates funds through which it offers products for corporate banking and also private banking.”

Monex’s offices in San Miguel were located to one side of the Angela Peralta Theater on calle Mesones. It was popular among its clients due to its high level of customer service, with representatives often making house calls.

The clients

In 2018, clients started to learn through word of mouth that their accounts were missing money. A Monex client who spoke to Atención told us that as soon as they knew about their missing money, they filed a criminal complaint against the company and against whoever is responsible for the missing money in the client’s account. The client believes that Monex’s representative in San Miguel, along with other accomplices, made the money disappear.

The client claims to be working on his own private investigation and says he is very close to getting results.

Atención interviewed a number of residents or former residents of San Miguel who say they have lost money deposited into investment accounts with Monex. Honoring their requests for anonymity, we have used pseudonyms for all these interviewees.

Accounts emptied

In a house in Centro, our reporter met with Emily, who visited San Miguel in 1970 and then moved here. She had over US$400,000 invested with Monex. When she wanted to withdraw money from her Monex investment account, she contacted her San Miguel representative and had electronic transfers made from the Monex account to other accounts she had with different banks. “The promoter always told me that half of my investment was with Volaris and Walmart. ‘Emily, you don’t have to worry about anything, you are making a lot of money—don’t worry,’” she said. “I was confident that I was making money. But in the end, it turned out that, no, my money was never invested and I had no profits.”

All the Monex clients we interviewed for this story referred to the person who managed their accounts at Monex as a “promoter.” The word is likely a literal translation of the Spanish word promotora, which in this context, is probably best translated as “representative.”

Whenever Emily asked the San Miguel representative for the status of her account, or for cash, these were sent to her by motorcycle courier. This past December, when she needed money for medications, services, and other expenses, she asked the representative for cash. She never got a reply and eventually found out that her savings account showed close to US$10,000 missing. She is now working with Monex to recover her money.

In another case in 2012, a couple, the Stewarts, invested their life savings in Monex because they were promised 10 percent interest. In the first 18 months, they received account statements, but subsequently these were sent only by email, and only when the couple asked their representative for them. At times, the couple asked their representative by email to make transfers from their account to another bank.

After they realized—through friends and acquaintances—that several accounts belonging to other clients had been depleted, the couple went to several meetings with Monex representatives in Querétaro. There, the Stewarts say, a bank lawyer told them that their money was illegally removed a few months after they deposited it. This made the Stewarts believe that “the account statements that the promoter was sending were in actuality prepared by the representative to cover up the fraud, and not the bank’s [statements],” said Mr Stewart.

After various meetings in Querétaro, San Miguel, and México City that involved language barriers because the representatives from Monex did not speak English, Stewart said he received a check after signing documents of which he neither has copies nor photographs.

After he received the check, Stewart said that he received a call from man named “Alfredo,” a lawyer claiming to be from Monex, to tell him that the bank had found new evidence from the San Miguel promoter, and that now Stewart owes the company more than US$50,000. However, the alleged Monex lawyer has not called him again, Stewart said. “My acquaintances told me that it’s unusual for such demands to be made by phone,” he said.

Compensation at the 2012 exchange rate

Another couple from the United States—Matthew and Anna—received an inheritance, and decided to invest close to US$50,000 with Monex.

“The dollar was at 12 pesos at the time,” the couple said in an email they jointly sent to Atención. They received statements for their account, and all seemed to be going well, they said.

“In January, we found out through a friend that there was missing money from Monex accounts,” the email said. “We called immediately, and effectively there was less than a thousand pesos in our account.”

After various meetings, Monex agreed to give them their money, but reimbursed them at 12 pesos to the dollar (the 2012 rate) and with no interest. The couple finally agreed to the terms.

“We fault not only the representative from San Miguel but the entire company. It’s impossible that the [other] departments would not have realized what was happening and that they would not have records. They should be more willing to pay the correct amounts to keep their reputation if they don’t want to commit fraud,” the email said.

Monex’s response

Atención contacted Grupo Financiero Monex and spoke to Fernando García, their public relations representative, who said he could not give additional information since the firm is conducting an internal investigation. He insisted that each specific case will be reviewed and referred us to a press release signed by Monex.

In its press release, Monex identified their San Miguel employee Marcela Zavala Taylor as the person being investigated in these cases. Here is the translation of that document:

“Grupo Financiero Monex informs: In light of the evidence against the promoter Marcela Zavala Taylor regarding presumed irregular movement of accounts she handled in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, the comptroller of this financial institution is conducting an investigation in order to delineate responsibilities. Legal action is being taken. Therefore, no details can be revealed that could affect the investigation. We have proceeded in a serious manner with the clients who have made written declarations, and each situation is being dealt with individually. Any unusual activity will be reported, with a demand made for its investigation, and, as needed, punished by the respective authorities when all safety guarantees are provided for our clients. Grupo Financiero Monex reiterates that all its companies and operations work within the law and are supervised by competent authorities, not only at the national but at the international level.”

Who protects the investor?

Personnel from Banco Banregio told us that when someone places their savings in a banking institution registered with the authorities, they are protected by financial laws, among them the Ley de Instituciones de Crédito (Law of Credit Institutions). They also indicated that when people put money in a bank, this is protected by the Instituto para la Proteccion del Ahorro Bancario (Institution for the Protection of Bank Savings), known as IPAB. According to the Ley de Inversiones (Law of Investments), from the moment a person opens an account, it is guaranteed by the bank.

The IPAB website indicates that bank accounts—savings accounts, checking accounts, payroll accounts, and others—are protected for up to US$400,000 (2,508,467.20 pesos).

BOX

The representative from Monex whom clients have named as the person who managed their accounts, Marcela Zavala Taylor, has been missing since December 2018. Atención’s attempts to contact Zavala Taylor were unsuccessful.

Atención spoke to an ex employee of Monex, who asked to remain anonymous. The employee indicated that Monex will surely negotiate a settlement because this is what companies do. Besides, he said, the law, the Comisión Nacional para la Protección y Defensa de los Usarios de Servicios Financieros (CODUSEF), and IPAB protect the investor.

“If embezzlement did occur,” he said, “this could be due to the trust given to the representative by the clients; however, Monex ought to know the employees it contracts.”

 

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