Calgary couple searched, banned from Mexico
Published Friday, February 17, 2012 2:20PM EST
A Calgary couple says their romantic getaway to Mexico was interrupted recently when Cancun airport officials questioned them, made threats, then strip-searched one of them before sending both back to Canada on separate planes, with no explanation of what they were accused of having done wrong.
The couple, Jeff Lippert and Theresa Benko, flew to Cancun last Sunday -- a destination they had visited about a dozen times in the past.
But this time, they were unexpectedly banned from entering the country.
"They said 'come with me, you're in trouble,'" Lippert told CTV Calgary.
Customs officials took him away, performed a strip search, looked through his bags and eventually told him he had two choices: go to jail, or get on a plane and go home. However, Lippert said he wasn't told what he had done wrong.
Meanwhile, as Lippert was being detained and questioned, officials began to focus their attention on Benko, who wasn't sure what was happening with her boyfriend and was beginning to worry.
"(They said) What are you hiding? They started searching our bags, saying 'you're making trouble for yourself, tell us what you're hiding.' I said 'I'm hiding nothing, this is just a misunderstanding,'" Benko told CTV Calgary.
Eventually, Lippert and Benko were sent back to Canada on separate flights and their planned romantic getaway came to an abrupt end.
"Am I ever going back to Mexico? I don't think I'm going back to Mexico for a while," Lippert said.
The couple has gotten in touch with Canadian officials here and in Mexico to register a complaint and seek an explanation.
Debbie Hughes, a Calgary travel agent who has been booking trips to Mexico for about 20 years, said the couple's experience is unusual.
"I've never heard of anything like that before so we're still telling clients to go to Mexico," she said. "It's pretty safe, we haven't had anyone who's had any problems. It's as safe as being anywhere in Calgary late at night."
There have been a number of high-profile incidents of violence in Mexico in recent months.
- Earlier this year, Calgary resident Sheila Nabb was severely beaten in a five-star Mazatlan resort.
- Salih Abdulaziz Sahbaz, a Canadian citizen originally from Iraq, was gunned down in January in an area of Mexico known for drug violence.
- In December, the body of Ximena Osequeda, a Vancouver resident and student, was found on a beach in Huatulco, south of Acapulco, along with that of her Mexican boyfriend.
- And Robin Wood of Salt Spring Island, B.C., was killed when he confronted two robbery suspects.
With a report from CTV Calgary's Bill Marks