In San Miguel de Allende, it is said foreigners live here either because they want to be forgotten, or because there’s no one left to remember them.
This small-town alchemy of anonymity and forgettability laid the groundwork for an alleged decade-long Ponzi scheme estimated to have stolen US $40 million from more than 150 Banco Monex accounts belonging to United States, Canadian, British, European and Australian expatriates.
While several local Mexicans were also embroiled in the bank fraud, the vast majority were among the foreigners who make up 10% of the population in San Miguel, a UNESCO World Heritage site known for its historic streets and La Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel.
As the scope and scale of the fraud begins to unfold, retirees and elderly with little savings and less family support are settling for half or less of their lost funds in restitution, hoping to eke out a life with what little resources they have left.
“People live in San Miguel for two reasons, but whether wanted or unwanted, the result is that they end up forgotten. Banco Monex used this to take advantage of people, and then not act in good faith when the fraud was exposed,” said Arvin Kagan, who moved from Chicago to San Miguel more than two decades ago.
Kagan, who banked with Monex for 15 years, was told earlier this year that his account was closed in 2015, despite the fact he continued banking with them for the following four years.
“Pesos, dollars, stocks purchased through them they were holding — I had all of that. But Monex claims all the documents received from them were fake, and that none were real,” Kagan said.
Kagan is among a small handful of larger account holders challenging Monex’s handling of the fraud in a legal battle that could ultimately play out in the U.S. and is currently being considered by the Banking Commissioner of Texas.
Most prominent among the group is Howard Haynes, an 83-year-old philanthropist from Kansas City who has lived in San Miguel for 22 years, 10 of which he served on the board of the Community Foundation of San Miguel. In 2010, he received Hospice San Miguel’s first community caregiver award for volunteering and financial support.
With his Monex accounts established primarily for these charity donations and philanthropic scholarships, Hayne’s losses were among the largest of all the San Miguel fraud victims. His funds were drained to almost nothing and moved between accounts, without his approval, to and from people he’d never heard of.
Mexico News Daily spoke to more than a dozen victims for this story, half of whom refused to be identified, fearing for their personal safety or reprisal from Monex, which forced them to sign lengthy documents in Spanish in exchange for receiving settlements.