With Mexico’s National Vaccination Plan underway, the country is already emerging as the epicenter for criminal activity surrounding coronavirus vaccines.
On this episode of FreightWaves’ true-crime podcast Long-Haul Crime Log, we discuss how distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine could be a major challenge in a country already besieged by cartel violence and cargo theft.
The podcast looks at several recent criminal incidents in Mexico related to the coronavirus vaccine and COVID-19 testing, along with the story of a bookkeeper who defrauded a family-owned trucking company and farm in Missouri out of more than $700,000.
Join journalists Noi Mahoney, Nate Tabak and Clarissa Hawes for the latest episode, presented by FreightCasts.
Cartels create fake testing lab; Interpol warns of vaccine theft
In November, a mobile COVID-19 testing lab arrived in a neighborhood in the city of Juarez, Mexico, just across the border from Laredo, Texas.
A large advertisement on the mobile lab read “Covid-19 tests at 50% discount.” Dozens of people lined up to get tested for the coronavirus, paying $1,000 pesos each ($50). But the tests were faked. The lab was a scam set up by organized crime, according to Mexican law enforcement.
“Organized crime has set up fake laboratories in the states of Jalisco, Tamaulipas, Chihuahua and Mexico City to falsify the coronavirus vaccine,” Raúl Sapién Santos, president of Mexico’s National Council for Private Security said in a recent article in Milenio.
Sapien-Santos also said that cartels such as the Familia Michoacana and Jalisco Nueva Generación, could try to interrupt the supply chains of vaccines as they are distributed throughout Mexico.
Mexico’s National Vaccination Plan is underway and requires an unprecedented civilian-military deployment in regions of the country controlled by cartels. The Mexican government has promised free vaccinations for all of its citizens, some 129 million people.
Mexico to date has registered more than 1.5 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and 136,917 deaths from the virus.
Sentencing date set for bookkeeper in trucking fraud case
Hawes delves into the story of Christen Schulte, of Washington, Missouri, who pleaded guilty in August to wire fraud, bank fraud and money laundering charges in Missouri.
Schulte, who worked as the bookkeeper and office manager of Maczuk Farms Trucking (MFT) and Maczuk Farms in New Haven, Missouri, diverted a total of $727,000 in company funds over two years from January 2018 to February 2020.
She also had American Express and FirstBank issue her new credit cards in the farm and trucking company’s names and charged more than 1,800 transactions, racking up more than $532,000 on the credit cards.
Federal prosecutors alleged that Schulte used the money to purchase jewelry, a travel trailer, vehicles, and tickets to Universal Studios and Green Bay Packers football games, and to pay for living expenses.
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