Perry March made enemies in Mexico



http://www.tennessean.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20050811/NEWS03/508110413
Thursday, 08/11/05
March made enemies in Mexico
Fraud allegations, other legal woes in adopted hometown dog deportee
By AILENE TORRES
The Tennessean

AJIJIC, Mexico -Gayle Cancienne had the perfect early retirement.

In her mid-50s, Cancienne moved to Ajijic. For two years, she would
wake without an alarm clock to the beautiful blue skies, go for walks
on the narrow cobblestone streets and play bridge with other American
expatriates she had befriended.

Life for her couldn't get better, but it did get worse, she said, the
day she met Perry March.

Now, four years later, Cancienne, 61, says she's poor and works 80
hours a week. Only this time, she makes $2 an hour and works one
full-time and three part-time jobs.

"I'm getting too old for this kind of crap," she said, standing in the
aviary at the animal shelter where she's the computer operator in
Ajijic. "It's been horrible. I had to eat, for a long time, tortillas,
beans, cactus and eggs. Eggs are cheap."

Cancienne is one of many North Americans in the Ajijic-Chapala area who
claim they've been swindled by March, said Joel Rasmusson, who
voluntarily helps people file complaints with the Mexican government.
Although many filed claims with the Mexican immigration officials in
nearby Guadalajara, nothing was done, he said, so they gave up and
returned home.

Complaints about fraud and unsavory conduct were among the factors that
caused Mexican immigration officials to deport March last week, an
official in that country said. The immigration official conceded that
officials had no evidence the allegations were true.

After his deportation, March was taken into custody by U.S. authorities
responding to the unsealing of an indictment alleging that he had
murdered his wife nine years ago and had disposed of her body. He is
expected to be returned to Nashville in the coming week to face the
charges.

The arrest has fueled criticism of March by some locals in Ajijic, his
adopted home since 1999.

Nashville lawyer John Herbison, who has represented Perry March in the
past and expects to be retained by him again soon, said he was unaware
of the claims made in Mexico.

"I really don't know anything about the local issues there," Herbison
said via telephone yesterday. "Last week was the first I have spoken
with Perry, and the matters you are talking about were not part of
those conversations."

Cancienne's allegations against March are the subject of a civil
lawsuit being decided before a judge in Ajijic.

According to the suit, Cancienne needed a lawyer four years ago to help
her manage three properties she owned in the United States - two in
her hometown of New Orleans, the other in Kansas City, Mo.

Cancienne wanted to sell the properties, deposit the money in a
tax-free Mexican bank account and live off of the interest, which is
common practice for Americans living in Ajijic.

March presented himself as an attorney, she said, and she retained him
for $15,000 initially, later giving him an additional $5,000 retainer
when he demanded it.

She said he convinced her that the best way to handle her affairs was
to create a corporation using her name. "Actually, he had opened the
corporation for himself," she said. "It's his corporation, not mine."

She said she later learned that Perry March had secretly sold her
duplex in New Orleans. "He sold it for $181,000 because he wanted a
quick sale," she said. "The owner then turned around and sold it for
$252,000."

Cancienne never got a cent of that money, she said.

"I'm pretty naive when it comes to business," she said, adding that the
failed deal had ruined her. "I lived on the income of the rentals on
the house. So he took everything I had."

Perry March's father, Arthur, said in an interview this week that he'd
never heard of Cancienne and could not comment on her claims.

However, there are those in Ajijic who say they know Perry March to be
a stand-up guy.

Angel Hago spent two years chauffeuring the March children to school in
nearby Chapala. He never had to wait to be paid, he said.

"He would say, 'How much, Angel?' " Hago said. "He paid me, no
problem."

But that's not the side of March that Jesus Madrigal says he knows.

Madrigal tried to make extra money by renting one of his family's
properties, a lavish home in the affluent subdivision of La Floresta in
Ajijic. When Perry March answered his advertisement, Madrigal said, he
trusted him and didn't have the Marches sign a lease.

Behind a high wall sits a two-story Spanish-style hacienda with three
bedrooms - the master bedroom has a Jacuzzi - 3½ bathrooms, an
additional outdoor kitchen complete with grill, and a swimming pool
with "his" and "her" changing rooms.

Madrigal began renting to March in 2000.

At first things went smoothly, he said. March paid a year's rent in
advance. The next year, he said, it took longer for March to pay,
though he finally did. The third year, Madrigal said, he ran into
problems with March.

"He would owe two months rent, then pay the two months and then one
month," Madrigal said. "Then it started to get more complicated. He
would promise to pay, saying 'I'll see you tomorrow' or that he had to
go to Guadalajara to get money."

Finally, 22 days ago, the March family left the hacienda, Madrigal
said, still owing thousands.

March's father said he didn't know anything about Madrigal's claim but
found it hard to believe.

"They moved, but they left the house owing money? I doubt that," the
older March said. "I never heard anything about that. To my knowledge
he doesn't owe any money. I didn't hear that. You know, these people
have stories."

Madrigal alleges that March left owing seven months' rent, plus more
money for an unpaid utility bill. At $1,100 per month, with the
utilities, the tab is closing in on $10,000, he said.

The Marches moved out so quickly that some personal belongings were
left behind, Madrigal said, adding that he hoped to use the belongings
as leverage to collect the money he says he is owed.

Elsewhere in town, officials within the La Floresta subdivision also
were critical of the March family.

Media Luna Bistro & Café, the Marches' family-operated restaurant, is
violating the area's zoning guidelines, said Luis Ramirez, the
subdivision association's president.

"We don't want businesses around here because that's our rules," he
said. "And it's a problem."

Ramirez said yesterday that the association had filed a claim to close
Media Luna.

Carmen Rojas Solorio, March's Mexican wife, said that, in that case,
officials would have to close the businesses next door, too, because
they are in the subdivision.

Association officials disagreed.

Ramirez said correspondence about the café went unanswered, so now the
association is working through the court system. "In the next 45 days
we will have something," he said.

As for Cancienne, she has moved out of the house she bought in Ajijic
because she cannot afford the maintenance or the utilities. Now, she
lives in a cheap apartment far from town. She doesn't have a phone, a
computer, a television or a washer and dryer.

This is not how she expected to live out her life.

"Well, who would expect this? Who would expect to be destitute?" she
said.

She realizes that she's unlikely to get her money back if March is
convicted. Still, she sees his recent deportation and arrest as the
first steps toward justice.

"I don't see much hope for me in getting any money back," she said. "I
must say I'm very glad something has been done."

.