Phony journalists visited Nicaragua frequently

The group’s ease of movement through Central America for the past four years has reportedly prompted investigations in several countries

(posted Aug. 28, 11 a.m.)- The boss of the Mexican smuggling ring that posed as TV journalists had crossed the Nicaraguan-Costa Rican border on 34 occasions in four years—including three times in 2012—before getting caught last week, according to Costa Rican immigration records cited by Costa Rican daily La Nación.

Raquel Alatorre, the 40-year-old head of the alleged “narco journalist” gang, was finally captured smuggling $9.2 million to San José, Costa Rica to collect another stamp in her passport. The other fake journalists traveling in her six-vehicle caravan have a similar collection of tourism visa stamps in their passport, indicating that whatever the group was up to, they were doing a lot of it.

Raquel Alatorre before judges in Managua (GRAPHOS Producciones)

What the fake Mexican reporters were not doing a lot of was journalism. Despite traveling in vans painted with the logo of Mexican TV channel Televisa, the phony reporters were apparently too busy running money to even pretend to do any muckraking. The fake journalists produced zero footage of Central America in more than two dozen trips through the isthmus—a staggering lack of productivity that apparently didn’t raise any suspicions, despite the fact their “Televisa” caravan was spotted zipping around Nicaragua on various occasions this year.

La Prensa, citing unnamed sources, reported today that Nicaraguan police are also investigating one of their own officers and possibly customs officials in the southern Pacific department of Rivas. The National Police have not offered their version of events.

Honduras and Costa Rica are also reportedly investigating how the phony journalists were allowed to move about freely and repeatedly cross borders without arousing any suspicions. Mexican police are reportedly also collaborating with the investigation, according to media reports.