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This article was published 21/9/2018 (1048 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO — Nine months after the murder of Adam Anhang, his widow was in Florence, Italy, out of the reach of U.S. authorities, so broke she couldn’t afford deodorant or toothpaste, while awaiting the outcome of her lawsuit for a share of her late husband’s estate.
Aurea Vazquez-Rijos is on trial for conspiring to have the 32-year-old former Winnipegger murdered in San Juan in 2005. Evidence Thursday in the form of emails between her and family members in Puerto Rico portrayed a fugitive at her wits’ end, 7,000 kilometres from home.
"I need money," she wrote in an email, "I have nothing to eat or for the phone, and mom’s phone is not accepting collect calls. I need money desperately in my account."
In another email, dated July 24, 2006, she wrote from Italy: "My (arm)pits and mouth stink. I’m f----d. I always stink and sweat. Send me $$$ to buy deodorant and toothpaste." She asked her family members to deposit money in a bank account she would be able to access.
Prosecutors also produced an email Thursday that referred to Vazquez-Rijos’s 2006 civil suit against the Anhang family in a bid for a share of her husband’s estate, estimated at $24 million. Her sister, Marcia, writes about the "stubbornness" of Adam Anhang’s father, Abe, in refusing to release any money, and adds: "That old man will pay sooner or later."
The elder Anhang, who is attending the trial, never did pay. The case was eventually dismissed because Vazquez-Rijos failed to show up in a Puerto Rico federal court.
In 2008, a U.S. grand jury indicted her for the murder-for-hire of her husband after police arrested the killer, Alex Pabon, a drug dealer known as "El Loco." He confessed Vazquez-Rijos, her sister Marcia and boyfriend Jose Ferrer Sosa had promised to pay him $3 million for the killing. All three are facing possible life imprisonment in this case.
Anhang was slain shortly after midnight on Sept. 22, 2005, at an intersection in Old San Juan, a prime tourism area, when Pabon attacked him with a cobblestone and a knife.
Marcia also wrote in a 2007 email "things are heated" in Puerto Rico, and tells Vazquez-Rijos: "Watch your back, there are lots of enemies close by who you owe for a long time." Prosecutors did not immediately produce any evidence to show who the "enemies" of Vazquez-Rijos were.
Vazquez-Rijos replies: "We are all in the same boat... What we have to do is pray, and ask a lot of God."
Earlier evidence has shown the three accused met with Pabon the day before the killing and asked him to make the attack look like a robbery. Vazquez-Rijos was afraid Anhang would follow through on a threatened divorce and she would not get a substantial share of his estate.
The emails produced at the trial were gathered from Yahoo and Google by means of FBI search warrants. Puerto Rico is an unincorporated U.S. territory.
Other documents released Thursday describe efforts by Vazquez-Rijos and her family to fabricate a false family history of adherence to the Jewish faith. Included was a letter from her father saying, "My daughter always wanted to go back to the roots of her origin."
The fabrication included forged birth certificates for the father and mother and claims of Jewish heritage. It’s believed Vazquez-Rijos was hoping eventually to find refuge in Israel and take advantage of its laws protecting Jewish citizens against extradition.
Vazquez-Rijos evaded arrest in Europe for five years. She worked as a travel agent and gave birth to three children, including twin girls, in what prosecutors believe was a strategy to avoid extradition. One of the children was born in a Spanish prison, where she was held from 2013 to 2015. It’s been reported the father was another inmate.
While she was on the loose in Europe, Abe Anhang had an Italian private eye tracking her movements and activities. She was eventually captured in an FBI sting operation.