Fly Diamonds

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Chapter 19

Guadalajara was a large city, the third most populated by Mexicans after Mexico City and Los Angeles. Its population was composed of all different levels of society like any large metropolitan city but with one small difference—there was less anonymity than in a city the size of New York or Mexico City. Guadalajara only had about a million and a half people compared to metropolitan cities in the tens of millions. In a way, it was not a fully mature metropolis and this made it less than ideal for fencing a diamond. Juan had to resist the urge to look for a jewelry store that bought diamonds. He knew that Guadalajara had more connections to San Diego than Mexico City, and that word could reach the authorities. He needed to lie low and make his first sale count. Mexico City had dealers with deep pockets and was far from the city where the crime had taken place. He would wait, even if he were afraid of running low on cash. The Camry only brought in fifteen hundred, because a spot sale always yielded less cash, but he was determined not to use his US credit cards again. He even cut them in half to make sure there was no way they could be used. Any credit sale would be traceable, and he had seen enough movies about fugitives to know this. The bus to Guadalajara and the taxi to the motel exhausted Virginia, and he allowed her to sleep in. In the afternoon, Juan took his mom to the famous murals. He realized how much cheaper Mexico was when they drove for a good fifteen minutes and the cab fare totaled only five dollars. They walked into the huge old building.

“Wow!” Virginia said.

Sí. Wow,” Juan agreed.

They stood, looking up at ceiling of the Hospicio Cabañas where the famous muralist José Clemente Orozco had painted his expressionistic scenes of fiery figures flying in the sky. This was Mexico’s equivalent of the Sistine Chapel, and Orozco, the most painterly and loose of the three famous muralists, had done as he desired here. Rivera and Siqueiros had also painted important murals, but Orozco was Juan’s favorite, just as the painter had been his father’s favorite. The effect was mesmerizing and unique. Virginia had taught Juan about art once she started to take a serious look at art in a desire to decorate her first home. Juan’s father also loved art, and for a time, the three shared this passion. The Dalí prints his mom so deeply loved were the only surviving element of a small collection the Merlos had accumulated.

The bigger problem now would be to figure out how to fence the diamonds and not squander the assets. Juan was determined to have this nest egg last. Not having been caught for the robbery did not guarantee that he wasn’t at risk when fencing the stones. On top of that, there was the possibility of having someone steal his loot, of having a fence rat on him, and of having the cash sitting at home. All these problems had solutions, and so Juan prepared a list of rules. If he kept to the rules, he would be fine. “Not fencing a stone in a small town” was one of the first rules he had commited to memory, and he did not consider Guadalajara a big enough town.

Juan had studied carefully the mistakes made by criminals. It was not the crime but the mismanagement of the fruits of the crime that brought most criminals down. Even the criminal masterminds of the Great Train Robbery were now known. Not being caught was the first step, but the second was managing a lifetime of deception. Keeping Virginia in the dark would be the most difficult challenge. She would probably sense something was amiss but he would work at making sure she never knew it was illegal. A mother always believes her offspring are capable of great things and Juan would keep it that way. He was sure that she would keep loving him and that she trusted he was on the right path. He knew she had hated living on the border, and moving to Mexico City, even if in dire straits, seemed like a part of the solution.

He devised and memorized six rules for cleaning the assets:

Rule #1 Only fence one diamond at a time, and if possible, have it set in an old setting so the buyer believes he is buying an heirloom.

Rule #2 Always accept cash and only cash.

Rule #3 Always do so in disguise and use false names.

Rule #4 Only fence in large metropolitan cities, and always different ones, every time.

Rule #5 Never under any circumstances leave an electronic record of the money received.

Rule #6 Do nothing in haste, even if this means not buying a new home for a while and living modestly.

Juan knew this was going to be tough and he mulled in his head all the future scenarios. His rules would be the only safe way. They required travel, but he would have the means. But the issue of the cash was a thorn—traveling with a lot of it was dangerous, and any amount over ten thousand dollars was a red flag to the authorities. So he devised a scheme to convert the assets into tangible property for the trip back after fencing a stone. This idea of transformed assets began to bounce around in his head and a new plan began to emerge. He would begin his transformation as soon as tomorrow, when they would reach Mexico City.

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