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When most people think about Mexican beach cities — Playa de, Cancun, Puerto Vallarta and Los Cabos — they imagine elderly retired foreigners mixed in with vacationing spring breakers, destination weddings and everything in between.

The image of U.S. fugitives hiding out in these cities does not usually come to mind.

But there are plenty of these fugitives in Mexico.

It seems like every month or so, a news item comes about about one being extradited to the United States.

One example is the case of Louis Whitiker, whose real name is Wyatt Maxwell, who was indicted by a federal grand jury in Kansas City, Missouri, on Feb. 7 for alleged production of child pornography.

Maxwell, who was a lounge singer in Puerto Vallarta, made a living from organizing events at one of Puerto Vallarta’s premiere restaurants, the high-end La Cappella, where an entrée alone runs over $100, and a bottle of wine can cost up to $150.

When confronted after the fact by Pulse News Mexico about how Maxwell had managed to slip by the restaurant’s human resources checklist, the La Cappella management admitted that it had made an error, and promised to do more due diligence on its employees in the future.

Maxwell also spent his time in Puerto Vallarta organizing several make-a-donation campaigns for various causes and promoting other cash-based events.

Now he is back in Missouri getting ready to face the music for his alleged crimes.

Each time one of these high-profile cases come to light, members of the local community act surprised, and a flurry of social media comments circulate: “But I remember him or her as being so sweet.” “I never would have guessed this.” “How did this person go under the radar?” 

So how do wanted fugitives survive, often for years, in Mexico?  It is actually quite easy.

Think of the aforementioned beach communities.

No one, including local authorities, tend to think twice about a foreigner in their midst. Foreigners are everywhere, especially in certain parts of these cities.

How do they enter Mexico? Many fugitives enter Mexico legally by air when they know things are going get ugly for them in the their home countries.

Others, who are already on watch lists, can enter Mexico quite easily by land, driving or walking across from the United States.

Yes, there is a second checkpoint along each highway, about 12 kilometers in, which is where a tourist temporarily bringing in a foreign vehicle gets the permit finalized. This is also where a tourist entering by land will show a passport and register for a tourist visa, but the obligation is on the tourist to do so.

Private Mexican vehicles are not stopped; passenger buses sometimes are.

For a wanted fugitive, it is relative easy to skirt around this secondary inspection point, leaving the border zone and getting lost inside Mexico.

So how can someone survive without a legitimate ID for more than a few weeks?

In larger cities, while not impossible, it would be a challenge. But in a beach city, with so many foreigners living there permanently or temporarily, it is real quite easy.

These communities, where most of the foreigners are there legally, operate as cash-only societies. Even those there legally often avoid opening a bank account as it is just easier to withdraw at an ATM from a U.S.-based bank account every few weeks.

Some fugitives present themselves as educated professionals with trust funds who decided to make the move and learn Spanish, drinking margaritas every afternoon at a popular hangout for foreigners.

Those without a dependable source of income to sustain themselves frequently work illegally, usually because they have some skill, often English, which allows them to work as a singer, bartender, chiropractor, real estate agent or whatever.

Working legally and being officially on a Mexican payroll involves several checks and balances that are part of the process, so most fugitives will not apply for a formal job.

Businesses that hire illegally are in some ways passive supporters of some very shady characters. This lack of due diligence allows cover for fugitives and others.

Many businesses prefer to just pay the illegally working foreigner under the table. And if push came to shove, someone being paid under the table does not legally exist, so it is difficult to hold the employer responsible.

In this case, the Cappella Restaurant at least admitted its errors, as most human resource departments are not private investigators. This is why labor and immigration laws are in place.

That is the point. In beach cities, it is actually quite easy to create a new identity, rent a room with no rental contract, get an under-the-table-job during a busy high-season and work one’s way into the fabric of that community.


And yes, most of these fugitives will eventually get caught.

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