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Commentary, sarcasm and snide remarks from a Florida resident of over thirty years. Being a glutton for punishment is a requirement for residency here. Who am I? I've been called a moonbat by Michelle Malkin, a Right Wing Nut by Daily Kos, and middle of the road by Florida blog State of Sunshine. Tell me what you think.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The importance of customer service

One dissatisfied customer and you can end up in jail. From today's Palm Beach Post-

WEST PALM BEACH — It took Rolando MejÌa nearly a year to save up the $1,800 needed to pay smugglers to bring his brother-in-law from Guatemala help him harvest peppers in Belle Glade.

But when two smugglers arrived Sunday afternoon at a Publix parking lot in West Palm Beach with 18-year-old Juan Sabino, they demanded an additional $600.

MejÌa didn't have the money. So the men left with Sabino in an older white Ford van, refusing to return him until they got more money.

"We called them so they would come back, but they wouldn't listen," MejÌa said. "We were afraid they would do something to him or throw him somewhere."

So MejÌa fought back and called West Palm Beach police.

"We were scared," he said. "I didn't care if they sent him back, it didn't matter to me if I lost my money, I just wanted him to be all right."

MejÌa told police he hired a company that specialized in transporting immigrants across the U.S.-Mexican border, according to a West Palm Beach police report.

Police alerted law enforcement agencies around the state, and Collier County sheriff's deputies spotted the van on Interstate 75, Collier sheriff's spokeswoman Kristin Adams said.

There, they arrested two Texas men - Bruno Ortiz, 39, of Austin and Gonzalo Lucero, 42, of Houston - on kidnapping charges. Ortiz also is charged with driving with a suspended or revoked license.

Sabino was found in the van unharmed and has since been interrogated and detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Adams said.

MejÌa said he thinks Sabino is being held in Naples.

The federal immigration agency did not return phone calls to confirm Sabino's whereabouts.

Ortiz and Lucero remained in the Collier County jail, with bail set at $1.25 million and $500,000, respectively.

Ortiz has a criminal record in Texas that includes convictions for assault, felony drug possession, resisting arrest and reckless driving, while Lucero has one conviction for driving with a suspended license.

Wednesday, MejÌa was reluctant to say how he knew about the smugglers, known as coyotes. He said he hadn't heard of any past troubles smuggling people.

The Collier County Sheriff's Office is working with the immigration agency to determine whether Ortiz and Lucero have a history of immigrant smuggling.
This story is eerily similar to this 2005 incident in Palm Beach County.

The story Susana Mateo Jose told Lantana police last week was typical. The 18-year-old Guatemalan walked into Arizona with 16 others; then smugglers drove them to relatives and acquaintances in Alabama and Florida. Her story became atypical when her parents couldn't pay the $2,500 they owed the two men who delivered her to a Kmart parking lot in Lantana.

Police say Ricardo Contreras, 33, and Regino Sanchez, 24, told the parents they would sell their daughter into a slavery ring and sped away. Authorities tracked the abductors through a cellphone number to a Lake Worth home and arrested them six hours later, after chasing their SUV onto Interstate 95. Police found $11,000 in the vehicle and a ledger with the names of smuggled migrants and the amounts owed for their trips.

That story didn't have a happy ending, Susana Mateo committed suicide some months later. There won't be a happy ending here either. Mr. Mejia almost certainly won't get back either his money and his brother will probably be deported.

Senors Ortiz and Lucero will likely spend time in prison. The result of one unhappy customer. Too bad some other Palm Beach County businesses couldn't meet a similar fate.

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