Threatening Letter Prompted Immediate Action

For years, this international conglomerate had been doing business in Mexico. But as crime rates exploded, so did the concerns of its senior executive and country leaders about risks to their local employees and expatriates.

One day, a taxi pulled up to its factory in Michoacán and delivered an envelope addressed to the manager. The note threatened his life and that of his family if he didn’t comply with a demand to begin making a series of monthly payments. “We know where you live,” the note said. “Don’t run. We can find you anywhere.”

One Million Pesos or Death

As Hillard Heintze launched its investigation in Mexico, a second extortion letter arrived and the manager moved his family across the country. Within days, however, it became clear that key details were inconsistent with the modus operandi of cartels and criminal groups active in the region.

The amounts requested were surprisingly low and the elapsed time between demands extraordinarily long. Instructions on the money drop were amateurish and unlikely to be made by gangs and extortionists concerned that authorities would be lying in wait. Where professionals would have confronted the victim in person, there were packages and emails – some originating from Canada. And an Author Comparative Analysis based on the extortion letters and documents written by the manager himself uncovered similarities in construction and use of grammar. It also revealed that the letters of demand reflected an educated manner of writing consistent with a “corporate” style.

Although there were strong indications that the author of the extortion notes was well known to the victim, that conclusion could not be confirmed without a confession or additional evidence. Given these limitations, our investigators outlined a number of options for the corporation’s leaders at both the enterprise and local level to consider – to ensure the safety of the personnel at this facility and to capture more extensive evidence as the incident evolved.

Knowledge of Cartel and Criminal Gang Practices Paid Off

Central to the analysis in this case, was our understanding, experience and knowledge of the practices of cartels and criminal gangs in this particular region as well as across Mexico. 

Context is critical. So are relationships. And deep local knowledge. That’s at the core of the value we provide to our clients. Even if they’re establishing a presence in Mexico or South America for the first time, we help them make the right decisions on protecting their people and assets – as if they’ve been here for decades.