As you likely know, on September 17, 2015, Miguel Fernandez was arrested for DWI. On April 6, 2015, Fernandez was appointed to the UMC Board by Vince Perez. In my post, “The Miguel Fernandez DWI Arrest” I shared with you a quick history of the PAN Party’s rise in Mexico and the Fernandez family’s connection to it. Today I am going to share with you some more information concerning Transtelco, Fernandez’ company, fiber optics networks and allegations of corruption including death threats.
Sometime in May of 2014, Miguel Fernandez and Transtelco received a letter dated May 30, 2014 accusing them of misappropriating four strands of fiber optic cable that is part of the Bestel Public Telecommunications Network that originates in Laredo, Texas and serves about 21 points in Mexico. As you might remember from my article about the global internet, this allegation involves significant access to the global Internet network serving Mexico. It is highly lucrative to whomever controls those strands of fiber.
Mark Randolph James, a Mexican citizen (yes there are English names in Mexico), and his company, Centro de Contacto Avanzado S.A. de S.V. issued the cease and desist order to Transtelco alleging that they are the “rightful owners” of the fiber strands.
According to the cease and desist letter, Transtelco was marketing the fiber optic strands as part of its Internet capacity. On the surface it looks like just another simple business-to-business legal battle about who owns what.
Except what is seemingly a simple legal battle has evolved into serious allegations of human rights violations and even death threats.
According to an October 15, 2015 letter from Mark James to the United States Embassy in Mexico City, James wrote that he had filed a request “seeking a formal investigation by US law enforcement agencies into potential criminal acts of fraud, conspiracy, forgery and intentional use of falsified/forged documents, bribery and corruption.” According to James’ letter, the alleged fraud “was being perpetuated and/or funded by Officers (US Citizens) and Counsel of Transtelco, Inc., an El Paso Corporation,” and others, including legal counsel.
Mark James goes on to write that “as a result of my legal complaints” he has been the “target of two different murder attempts.” James writes that he “survived the first” of the attempts because of “mistaken identity” and because of a gun “misfire” in the second attempt. James also alleges that a “Molotov cocktail” had been thrown against his personal vehicle in recent days.
The letter, to the embassy, further adds that Transtelco “fraudulently secured a $100-million-dollar loan in the United States using forged documents to evidence title” to the fiber optics stands. James, via email, provided me various copies of legal documents that he filed in Mexican courts as well as complaints of legal fraud and human rights violations that he had filed with Mexican federal authorities.
Some of these have been filed under oath, meaning that if they are proven to be lies, the filer is subject to criminal penalties, not to mention significant fines.
Among the Mexican legal filings, Mark James alleges that legal documents have been fraudulently and corruptly gone missing that have resulted in his legal case being delayed or resulting in adverse rulings by the courts.
Because of the missing court documents, Mark James also provided me with a copy of a formal criminal complaint he filed with the Mexican federal prosecutors’ office on October 21, 2015 alleging extortion, intimidation, corruption and interfering with communications infrastructure, among other things. His legal filings implicate various government officials and lawyers.
In his various complaints, James has listed at least fifteen Mexican officials that he alleges have been bribed by Miguel Fernandez and two other US citizens. Remember that last week I explained how the foreign corrupt practices laws can be used by US officials on US citizens if they are proven to have bribed officials in other countries.
It is important that I point out that Mark James has also sued, as part of the original suit, Televisa for misappropriating the fiber strands.
In an email interview, James wrote that he has “been in contact with an FBI Special Agent in El Paso.” As you know, the FBI usually does not release any information about cases it may be investigating and as such, I am unable to confirm whether an investigation has been opened or not.
It is my understanding that James will be in the United States this week seeking to get more information about any US investigations into his allegations. If I receive additional information I will share it here on my blog. Of course, as his cases make it through the legal system, I will also try to update you on the results.
As a telecommunications provider, especially providing cross-border services, a strategically sensitive area, the FCC has restrictions about issuing its licenses to foreigners. On July, of this year, Transtelco filed an FCC request asking for a 180-day extension to their January 30, 2015 “Special Temporary Authority” which allows them to continue operating under their original FCC license. Apparently, the company underwent a recent ownership change that resulted in a change in the matrix between US citizen and foreign ownership. According to the extension request, the Department of Justice’s, Team Telecom, is reviewing Transtelco’s recent change of ownership. Team Telecom reviews foreign ownership of FCC licensees and has placed a hold on Transtelco’s FCC license renewal.
As you digest this latest information, remember that from my previous article, there are questions about how Transtelco acquired use of a city-owned conduit across the Stanton Street International Bridge. City council extended them a license, retroactively, allowing them access to the conduit in December of 2011. I have not been able to ascertain under what circumstances the City became aware that Transtelco had used city property without permission and for how long. While the City retroactively gave them permission to use City property, after finding out they were using it without City authority, the City also gave Transtelco a maintenance contract to maintain the city’s fiber optic cables.
The conduit from El Paso into Cd. Juárez gives Transtelco a unique opportunity to provide global Internet access to Mexico, which has a serious lack of external Internet access. The Bestel network out of Laredo, that is currently being litigated, gives Transtelco a global Internet presence into Mexico unmatched by other telecom providers.
In tomorrow’s edition I am going to explain how all of this connects to El Paso politics, besides the obvious, and what it means for Vince Perez and his appointment to UMC as well as how it all connects to elite Mexican families in El Paso injecting themselves into the US political system, especially in El Paso.