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This article was published 28/9/2018 (1041 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO — Adam Anhang’s widow admitted Thursday she produced a string of bogus documents in a bid to be accepted by the Jewish community in Italy, after she was indicted for the murder-for-hire of her Canadian husband.
"I was persecuted, threatened, afraid," Aurea Vazquez-Rijos told a San Juan court. "I had to find some way to keep my daughters stable."
She did not explain why she felt threatened, except for reports in Italian newspapers that she was wanted by police in Puerto Rico.
Along with her sister and a boyfriend, Vazquez-Rijos is accused of conspiring to kill Anhang, a 32-year-old Winnipeg-born businessman, in 2005.
Anhang was stabbed and beaten to death in Old San Juan by a known drug trafficker who told police the three accused promised him US$3 million for the act. He said Vazquez-Rijos was worried about an impending divorce.
Vazquez-Rijos, the last witness for the defence, left Puerto Rico for Italy eight months after the killing. After she was indicted in 2008, she did not return until she was extradited. During her time away, she gave birth to three children by two different fathers.
Evidence has shown she was considering moving to Israel, and was curious about its extradition laws. She asked a lawyer in Jerusalem: "How can I be protected? Is Israel American soil?" (Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the United States.)
Before any such move, Vazquez-Rijos felt she and her daughters had to be accepted as members of the Jewish faith. She visited a prominent rabbi in Florence, Italy, who told her she needed supporting documents. So, she went looking for birth and marriage certificates that she could falsify to prove she had a solid Jewish heritage.
That admission produced an exchange with prosecutor Jose Ruiz.
"Where did you get the documents from?" Ruiz asked.
Vazquez-Rijos answered "Photoshop" after a long pause.
To be successful, she needed authentic certificates of family births, deaths and marriages from the registry in Puerto Rico — documents which her mother collected for her.
"I was sent a photo (of the certificates), and I scanned them and made the adjustments," she said.
There were, however, some hurdles to overcome. For example, the Texas death certificate of Vazquez-Rijos’s great-grandmother.
They changed the woman’s name on the document so it sounded Jewish. The problem: the great-grandmother had been buried. "If she was buried, I have to show the tombstone," Vazquez-Rijos wrote in an email to her brother, who was in on the scheme, the court heard. The certificate was doctored to say: "cremated."
Vazquez-Rijos also enlisted the help of a Florentine banker, Paolo Galardi, who became a lover. She said Galardi helped with the scheme by letting her use his office’s high-quality printer, the court heard.
The plan worked, and Vazquez-Rijos and her daughters were accepted as members of the Jewish faith. However, she was arrested before they could move to Israel.
In 2013, she fell for an FBI sting operation that involved a rabbi who convinced her to fly to Spain to meet a tour group. Spanish police arrested her at the Madrid airport. While in prison, she gave birth to her youngest child.
In attempting to show motive Thursday, Ruiz outlined the terms of the prenuptial agreement between Vazquez-Rijos and Anhang. She stood to collect US$126,000 in alimony payments over three years in the event of a divorce. However, if Anhang died, she would collect US$8 million — one-third of the estate.
"What would you rather have," the prosecutor asked. "Eight-million dollars, or $126,000?"
To which Vazquez-Rijos answered: "Neither."
She testified her life with Anhang was not luxurious but "normal." They lived "month to month," she said.
They carried a lot of debt and living costs were very high, she said.
If that was the case, Ruiz asked, how was it that three months after their marriage, Anhang bought her a US$54,000 Porsche Cayenne? Anhang also put up the money to buy her a restaurant/lounge, called the Pink Skirt, that she managed.
Testimony has shown the marriage was under great stress. Two witnesses testified Vazquez-Rijos had inquired about how she could find a contract killer. She has denied the accusations.
Two or three days before his death, she said Thursday, Anhang left a handwritten note on her pillow that began: "Dear Aurea, I feel so blessed to be with you... Only once in a million years does a man have an opportunity to be with a woman like you. I love you very much." The note, shown to the jury, ended with his assurance she would "prevail" in a difficult upcoming week.
Vazquez-Rijos testified the note referred to a court appearance scheduled for Sept. 23, 2005, concerning an accident in which she struck a woman while driving her car. She never appeared in court.
That was the day Anhang was killed.