Woman mugged in Mexico by police

Few people would expect to be mugged while on vacation in a popular sun destination, and even fewer would expect the culprit to be a police officer.

That’s what happened to Meghan Rubio of St. John’s while visiting Cancun, Mexico, last week.

Rubia and her boyfriend decided to do something different for Christmas this year, so they saved up for a tropical trip.

It was the first time heading south of the U.S. border for Rubia, and she was extra cautious about which place they chose. They batted around the idea of the Dominican Republic, but in the end they settled on Cancun.

It was a one-week vacation package from Feb. 10-17. The pair hopped on a Westjet plane early on a Friday morning and arrived at their hotel mid-afternoon.

After getting something to eat and checking out the pool, they were exhausted and made it an early night.

On Saturday morning, they had an early breakfast, lounged at the pool, then took the bus into the main tourist strip.

They spent the afternoon there, looking for a place they could book to watch the Super Bowl the next day. They checked out a flea market. They had a good time.

“My boyfriend looked at me and was, like, ‘So, how do you feel now. Do you feel safe?’” Rubia said in a phone interview Friday, Feb. 17. “And I said, ‘Yeah, that was excellent. I really had a good time.’”

They went back again in the evening, and decided to check out the popular Coco Bongo, one of a chain of nightclubs in the Caribbean.

After a few drinks, they left the club and Rubia's boyfriend went into a store to buy a lighter while she waited outside, leaning against a tree.

“A cop came up to me and showed me her phone,” she said.

It was opened to Google Translate, and the message shocked her: “Give me 5,000 pesos right now or I’m going to charge you with public urination."

“It happened so fast. She literally showed me a phone, opened my bag. I said, 'I don’t have 5,000 pesos,'” she said.

“I’m not going to urinate in public. It’s ridiculous. I’m not a guy. I can’t just do it.”

When Rubia couldn’t produce the money, the officer put her in handcuffs and stuffed her into a police vehicle.

“I was alone by the tree, but there were people on the strip. Everybody was leaving Coco Bongo, so we were kind of in a group.”

Her boyfriend came out just in time to see her being apprehended.

“There was no point for him to go up there to the cops because he probably would have got arrested, too. So he didn’t really know what to do in that situation.”

At the police station, not far from their hotel, Rubia found the cost of her non-crime had gone up.

“When I got to the station, there was a young guy talking to me in the back room … and he said to me, the fine for pissing in public is 8,000 pesos,” she said.

“So I assume she was extorting me for the 5,000, but got mad at me because I didn’t have it to give it to her right away.”

They put her in a cell with three other young women, all local. Only one of them spoke a bit of broken English. She said she worked in a hotel there.

The cell was bare, other than a toilet with no cover.

It was nearly midnight and she had no idea how to get in touch with her boyfriend. Her pleas to the police were ignored.

“I was saying, 'You have to let me call the Canadian consulate.' I was crying, I was begging, 'Please let me call the Canadian consulate.'”

“No, shut up. No, shut up,” the officer replied.

About 3:30 a.m., she was taken to the back room again.

She found her cellphone wouldn’t work, but when she opened iMessenger, she found her boyfriend and a friend back home had been leaving messages in vain. They were marked read, leading her to believe the police had been able to access her phone.

When her boyfriend finally arrived at the police station, the police demanded the same amount: 8,000 pesos, which amounted to CAN$614.

“He said I have 1,260 pesos, and they said, 'No, if you want your family back, bring us back 8,000 pesos,'” Rubia said.

After trying unsuccessfully to withdraw the money from bank machines, her boyfriend finally used Rubia’s credit card to get the money from the hotel.

The pair left the police station at 7 a.m.

Back in the hotel, Rubia wouldn’t leave the room.

The couple decided to cut their holiday short and flew out the next day.

Because of weather, they were stuck in Toronto until Wednesday, arriving back in St. John’s that night.

Rubia said she has been to Vegas and Orlando, but she’s not going back to Mexico any time soon.

“Probably not going to leave Canada again,” she said. “There’s lots of beautiful things to see in Canada.”

She did try to follow up with the Canadian government about her ordeal, and believes contacting MP Seamus O’Regan’s office may have sped things up for her. A woman did get back to her by email, but said only that they can make sure the consulate is aware of the incident.

The Canadian government does warn travellers to exercise caution when visiting Mexico, but only briefly mentions the possibility of being extorted by police.

When she posted about her experience on Facebook, Rubia said, she received numerous replies from people who had similar experiences.

In fact, in October 2022, four members of the Cancun Tourist Police were under investigation for extortion.

That’s little comfort for Rubia.

“Me and my boyfriend love to travel, and this has ruined it for me.”

Peter Jackson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Telegram