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Paradise lost: Child porn fugitive jailed

COMING EVENTS:

COOKING CLASS, Friday, March 15, 10 a.m. Latitude 20 Restaurant
COMEDY FESTIVAL, April 11-13, in Akumal

 

Lawyer says deportation means

there can be no  return to Mexico

By Staff
       A well-known Puerto Aventuras resident and convicted child pornography fugitive from the U.S. justice system has been arrested and is jailed in Florida. He is being detained on a charge of failing to register as a sex offender and has been placed on “immigration hold,” meaning that he cannot be released to the streets on bond pending a court appearance on the charge.

Douglas J. Bell, 71, who has been living in a posh waterfront condominium at Quinta Luna, was reportedly taken by law enforcement officials from his condominium earlier this month, quickly extradited to the U.S. and booked on March 6 in Florida’s Broward County.
There are thus far uncorroborated reports that officials confiscated electronic paraphernalia found in the condominium accessorized with at least four large television screens and multiple computers. A witness reported seeing law enforcement personnel and vans outside the apartment on March 8 after Bell had been mysteriously absent for seven days.
Bell had been listed on the internet for more than a decade as a fugitive from the Broward County, Fla. offender registry. He had been charged with 24 counts of sexual performance by a child (child pornography) filed in 1998 by the Broward Sheriff’s Department. At the time, Bell had been a computer and audio visual teacher at the Broward Middle Schools for 13 years. He had no prior U.S. convictions.
A report then in Florida’s Sun Sentinel newspaper said that charges were filed after school officials found 18 images of naked children on a school hard drive that Bell had brought in for repairs. A later search of his Florida residence turned up eight more similar photos on CD-Roms, the newspaper reported.
A review of the hard drive by U.S. Customs revealed “a meticulously organized directory of adult and child pornography and erotica,” according to Kirk Englehardt, Broward Sheriff’s Office spokesman at the time. Bell was arrested after that analysis. Detectives say that, though Bell had access to students at Pompano Beach Middle School, they found no evidence that he molested or tried to engage any of them in anything illegal.

CASE GOES TO COURT

On Jan. 25, 2001, Bell’s case finally went to court and he was “convicted by plea” on 25 felony charges, 24 of them on use of a computer for child exploitation and one count of cruelty to a child (obscene communication). He was sentenced to two years probation on all charges.
Bell was last seen in Florida on Feb. 26, 2001, just 32 days after the convictions on pleas of “nolo contendere” (no contest) according to court records. He was thereafter listed as “absconded,” – a fugitive from justice. A Florida detective said Bell could not have served probation in a foreign country. (A “no contest” plea is treated by the court as a conviction as is a guilty plea. The “not guilty” option was also available.)
At some point not long thereafter, Bell emerged in Mexico. He became a fulltime resident of Puerto Aventuras and began a process of courting the risk of deportation and befriending local residents and snowbirds to such a degree that it prompted a letter to the editor this week from resident and Bell friend Andrew Leigh. It reads, in part:

“I am writing you in hopes that you might consider omitting a recent event that involved a PA resident from this week’s publication of the PFP. No doubt you have heard of the arrest and deportation of Douglas Bell. If not, even better. We, as many of his longtime friends here feel, that this event and the circumstances surrounding it have nothing to do with Puerto Aventuras news. It is a personal matter that has no effect whatsoever on residents that do not know him, dirty laundry and nothing more.
“We greatly enjoy the informative articles regarding PA and the Mayan Riviera on a weekly basis, but all of Doug’s many friends here do not wish to see him skewered for events that may have happened in the past and in another country. I do hope you can consider taking the high road here.”

GROWING A BREAKFAST CROWD

         A stoic and accommodating sort who generally spoke in a monotone, Bell  soon became a magnet attracting as many as 15 to 20 other residents at times to chatty breakfast gatherings, said a source close to him this week who wished to remain anonymous. “He had a way of doing things for you that made you dependent on him,” the source said. “He was good on the Internet, could help you, and had this long file of local craftsmen he could get for you if you needed one.”
Another view came from a mother and local business owner who said this week that she refused his business because of what she observed as inappropriate behavior and a comment he made about her young daughter.
The source described Bell also as …“controlling, too. He could round up sometimes 20 people to go to Sunday breakfast in Playa or Akumal and it was great. You met a lot of new people. He had a collection of new movies he would loan to just about anybody who asked.  This may sound strange but now that I think of it, he kind of made you feel safer.”
There was also an eccentric but intriguing quality about Bell as he ate in restaurants that would allow his two small dogs to sit in chairs on either side of him, where he could easily share his food with them. He hosted annual birthday parties for the dogs and 25-30 people would show up, some with gifts.
The quirkiness is probably why, the source suggested, that many of Bell’s hail-good-fellow acquaintances shrugged in common truancy when his fugitive status in the U.S. began to circulate in whispered commentary. “I and some others began to drift away from him and those breakfast meetings because of it,” the source said. “But now that this has happened (the arrest), I have to say that I’m feeling somewhat guilty.”
Guilty, he inferred, of saying nothing, doing nothing, not condoning but abiding a fugitive.

BIRTH OF A CRUSADE

Not so Teresa Rubi Mendiola, a relentless Playa del Carmen immigration attorney and mother who took it upon herself five years ago to pursue Bell. Asked what her motive was for this particular crusade, she replied “because I love children.” She also said she previously worked in law enforcement.

In an interview this week in her office, she said she collected evidence and sought Bell’s deportation for five years after some of his neighbors informed her of his convictions and fugitive status. She said she was also motivated by other local negative hearsay information that so far remains uncorroborated and untested by any official Mexican law enforcement agency or court.
One of Bell’s neighbors who wanted anonymity, said in a phone interview that when he first heard questionable details about Bell, he had a Chicago private detective vet Bell’s record in Florida and passed the information on to Atty. Mendiola.
She said that for five years she has been contacting immigration officials here and in Florida, who, she said, generally responded with reasons or “excuses” why they could not or would not act on his deportation.
It was not, she said in the interview, until the recent arrival of new immigration agentHector Lemolin in Playa del Carmen that swift action occurred. “I gave him the file on February 11th… and look how fast he acted.”
She said her work could not have been accomplished also without the serious considerations of  the regional director of the Instituto Nacional de Migracion, Lic. Oscar Tirado Tirado, based in Cancun, and the local Encargado de la Delegacion de Playa del Carmen, Lic. Luis German Martinez Aguilar.
“Due to their wonderful teamwork this was able to take place . Up to this point, no other immigration delegado had ever shown interest in protecting the country’s borders or community from fugitives like Bell during the past four to five years.”
Atty. Mendiola says Bell’s days in Paradise are over. “He can’t come back because he was deported,” she said. She was joined in this view by Broward Sheriff’s Office detectiveMelissa Smith Everlyi who also worked on the case as did Mendiola’s law partner, Daniel Jesus Garcia Perez.
An attorney in Playa del Carmen who represented Bell on other matters declined comment. “I don’t know what he would want to say,” he said. There was no word on a court date for Bell’s arraignment.

COMMERCE CORNER

Two ferry companies delay start of service here

       Two competing ferry services are vying for the Tampa-Yucatan market and both of them, much like the Dragon Mart, are becoming adept at postponing their projects for various reasons.

Limestone Industrial del Carmen CEO Jorge Marquez Chabolla told the local press that the shipping company interested in the route from Tampa to the Calica Terminal – the closest terminal to serve Puerto Aventuras –will likely be postponed until late 2014.
And now comes Caribbean Cruise Lines CEO Bruce Nierenberg saying that his ferry plans for a Tampa-Progresso route – more distant for Puerto Aventurans or about a 5.5 hour drive – also will not likely begin until the winter of 2014. Progreso is a port near Merida.
Chabolla said the Tampa-Calica  project was temporarily delayed when the shipping company that was to operate it placed priority on a Tampa-Bahamas route.
Nierenberg, of Caribbean Lines,  was apologetic in his correspondence to people on the Mexican side who had filed polling data with the company to hasten its service to Progresso.
“It’s taken much longer than I had hoped it would as a result of many things international that are out of my control. But I feel we are getting to the finish line and will be establishing the start date  soon.

“I know you all plan as far in advance as possible so while I wont have the start date for a while, let me give you and your friends down there some information as to what they should be planning. 1. The ferry will not start until 2014. 2. It is being targeted for a winter start hopefully by February.
If you all are planning to travel I would not delay any other travel arrangements in any way before these dates.
“I have put together a list of all the people who have contacted us answering our questionnaires. That email list will be the first to know our specific plans when we announce them. Tell the others that if they have not contacted us to send me their email address and I will add them to the list for the latest information and special rates when we start.
“We also will have some special rates and deals for all of you that have been so patient,” Nierenberg said.
The line earlier predicted the proposed car/passenger ferry service on European style ferries capable of 1,000 to 2,000 passengers and as many as 600 cars would be up and running last year. Hyde Shipping, another Florida company, was chugging two container ships and delivering more than predictions to people choosing to haul their stuff from there to here or vice versa.
One case in point was that of Janet and Bruce Hardwicke of Puerto Aventuras who shipped their 10-year-old plus car from Florida to Puerto Morelos and were quite satisfied with the service despite having to jump through a number of seemingly redundant hoops once the car arrived in Mexico.

ALERT FOR ARTISTS, CRAFTSMEN, COOKS….

       A day to strut your skills will be presented by the Latitude 20 Restaurant from 1 to 5 p.m. on Sunday, April 14. Owner Peter Metrick invites all local artists, craftsmen and cooks to set up at the Latitude 20 to market their wares while being entertained by the delightful music of students from the Colegio.
The day is being billed as the Food, Fashion and Arts Fair offering the opportunity to display one’ s  skills to the local market.
Any artist, cook, tailor or other craftsperson who wants to participate in a fun day are asked to call Peter at 984-128-2933 or his chef, Daniel, at 984-593-1362. Contact can also be made at info@latitude20restaurant.com
B
USINESS BRIEFS – There’s a new breakfast in town known as the American doughnut and it became available at Cafe-Cafe in Centro yesterday….

 In Case You Want To Know…

 

Medical Information for Americans Abroad

(Provided by the U.S. Consular office in Playa del Carmen)

 

     If an American citizen becomes seriously ill or injured abroad, a U. S. consular officer can assist in locating appropriate medical services and informing family or friends. If necessary, a consular officer can also assist in the transfer of funds from the United States. However, payment of hospital and other expenses is the responsibility of the traveler.
Before going abroad, learn what medical services your health insurance will cover overseas. If your health insurance policy provides coverage outside the United States, REMEMBER to carry both your insurance policy identity card as proof of such insurance and a claim form. Although many health insurance companies will pay “customary and reasonable” hospital costs abroad, very few will pay for your medical evacuation back to the United States.Medical evacuation can easily cost $12,000 and up, depending on your location and medical condition.

THE SOCIAL SECURITY MEDICARE PROGRAM DOES NOT PROVIDE COVERAGE FOR HOSPITAL OR MEDICAL COSTS OUTSIDE THE U.S.A.

Senior citizens may wish to contact the American Association of Retired Persons for information about foreign medical care coverage with Medicare supplemental plans.
To facilitate identification in case of an accident, complete the information page on the inside of your passport providing the name, address and telephone number of someone to be contacted in an emergency.
A traveler going abroad with any pre-existing medical problems should carry a letter from the attending physician, describing the medical condition and any prescription medications, including the generic name of prescribed drugs.
Any medications being carried overseas should be left in their original containers and be clearly labeled.

 

Letters…

 

…Writer reminds community of “Art Walk”

Dear Editor:
       Not many people know there is an Art Walk around the marina every Saturday from 3:00 PM until 10:00 PM. The artists have their art displayed in front of several of the restaurants. Could you please put out a notice in the Pelican asking for artists interested in exhibiting and also asking people to come and support their local artists? If artists are interested in exhibiting, they should contact Salvador Penaloza on 984-151-2089 or at kunsthaus@zoho.com and he will assign a spot for them to display their art. I can be reached on 984-120-3953. Thank you for any support you can give.

Signed/Terri Hughes

Church Services…

FELLOWSHIP CHURCH PAAMUL– Non-denominational English worship Service is at 9:00 a.m Sundays in Paamul at the Palapa Church and at 10:45 a.m. at the Hacienda Real Hotel, Avenida 10 and Calle10 in Playa del Carmen.
LIGHTHOUSE CHURCH TULUM – “Lighting the way to Life” English worship Service is non-denominational, 10:00 a.m. Sundays with continental breakfast at 9:30; located on Highway 307, 1.2 miles past San Francisco grocery, hospital and Subway, next door to fruit stand.

 

Phrase a week … By Gloria Contreras, state certified interpreter

What’s the temperature? “Cual es la temperatura?” Anyone interested in learning the language can please contact Ms. Contreras by email at nanigloria@hotmail.com or Cel: 984-108-3517 so she can prepare materials in advance.
(Classes are from 8:30 to 9:30 a..m. Tuesdays and Thursdays at Tiramisu Restaurant and all are welcomed to attend. The fee is $150 pesos per session.

What’s Playing…

See for yourself what’s showing at the local movie houses in Playa del Carmen at the links below.
Centro Maya: http://cinemex.com/

Las Americas: http://www.cinepolis.com/_CARTELERA/cartelera.aspx?ic=70#Cine215

Briefly noted…

Compiled from staff, contributor and media reports
NOT THIS TIME – Q. Roo’s state government has adopted a 213 million peso budget for maintenance of state highways, but none of it apparently will come to highway 307…THE RED CROSS of this region, which recently opened a module in the Puerto Aventuras Poblado, has announced it needs to raise 800,000 pesos in its fundraising drives this year to expand its unit in Playa del Carmen. There will be drives today (March 14) and on March 31. Give generously to this worthy cause…NEW POLICE CARS along with new equipment and uniforms costing an aggregate 7,900,000 pesos have been delivered to Solidarity police elements by Mayor Filibeto Martinez Mendez. Our tax money at work for a safer environment…THERE ARE COMPLAINTS  about adulterated alcoholic drinks being served in some bars and lounges on 5th Avenue in Playa. Business people fear it will negatively impact tourist business…ANALYSIS FINDS that 5th Avenue cenotes contain a bacteria  seen there for the first time. Officials discussing what action to take…A BOX TRUCK speeding on wet pavement on Highway 307 between Puerto and Playa went off the road causing considerable damage Tuesday. Police used the incident to warn drivers to slow down on slippery wet pavement….

 

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