By MARK LORENZANA
With only a month to go until the 2022 FIFA World Cup opens in November, hundreds of Mexican soccer fans are looking for a way to fulfill their dream of watching the Mexican National Soccer Team in a packed stadium in Qatar and, perhaps, enjoy some sightseeing on the side.
Some unscrupulous and shady characters, however, haven take advantage of the situation. One of these pseudo businessmen has resorted to defrauding 50 El Tri fans, who were robbed of more than 1 million pesos through a Facebook group.
A certain Bernardo Benjamín Rebelo Oñate — according to Mario Urrea, one of the victims — advertised himself on Facebook as an organizer of packaged trips to Qatar for the World Cup, and sweetened the pot by offering travel and hospitality packages that are allegedly much cheaper than the official ones currently offered by travel agencies and by several hotel chains in Doha and in the other host cities in Qatar.
“There was this person who advertised himself as Bernardo Benjamín Rebelo Oñate, who presented official identifications of himself that were verified by each one of us,” Urrea said, talking to Mexican daily newspaper Milenio. “He even showed us proof that he ran as a councilor in Celaya (a city in the Mexican state of Guanajuato), but in the end he only used those credentials to defraud us. We trusted him because he even showed up in person, even went to my house to pick up some of the money.”
Urrea said that he was enticed by the relatively cheaper packages that Rebelo Oñate offered, but that he started to worry when there were no more updates on the trip after he paid.
“I bought a package that cost 107 thousand pesos for two people that included tickets for three matches of the Mexican team, plus lodging. A week ago, I got desperate because I was not hearing from him again, and then I found out that he published his packages in more Facebook groups,” Urrea sad. “I found out that he had tricked more than 50 people already, and had defrauded us of more than a million pesos in total. All of us were just desperate because the travel agencies were overcharging for their packages, and we couldn‘t afford them.”
Urrea said that he and the other victims of the fraud will take legal action against Rebelo Oñate, who has not responded to their requests for a refund.
“We already talked to some lawyers. We need to organize ourselves and work toward a class-action suit, because lawyers’ fees will eat up into the money we are all trying to recover,” said Urrea. “The lawyers that we talked to say the evidence qualifies for generic fraud, but the idea is to have a group complaint, so we can all save money on fees.”