WBEZ | Back of the Yards http://www.wbez.org/tags/back-yards Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Drug addicts sent from Puerto Rico may be victims of ID theft in Chicago http://www.wbez.org/news/drug-addicts-sent-puerto-rico-may-be-victims-id-theft-chicago-112325 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Joel%20%281%29.JPG" style="height: 414px; width: 620px;" title="Joel says he was never able to retrieve the personal documents that Segunda Vida, a 24-hour group for addicts in the Back of the Yards neighborhood, took from him. Later, he learned that his identity was being used by someone else when his unemployment benefits were frozen.(WBEZ/Odette Yousef)" /></div><div>After we aired a <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/puerto-rico-exports-its-drug-addicts-chicago-111852">story</a> about Puerto Rican drug addicts who were sent to unlicensed 24-hour group treatment programs in Chicago, we heard from lots of listeners. They were disturbed by one particular detail in reporter Adriana Cardona-Maguigad&rsquo;s investigation: that the groups routinely confiscate addicts&rsquo; identifying documents, and sometimes don&rsquo;t return them.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>In fact, in a tension-filled scene in Cardona-Maguigad&rsquo;s story, she accompanied one man to retrieve his documents from one of these treatment programs, a place called Segunda Vida.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><iframe frameborder="no" height="100" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/213554791&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></div><blockquote><div><strong>Listen: <a href="http://www.wbez.org/drug-addicts-sent-puerto-rico-may-be-victims-id-theft-chicago-112325#playlist">More stories and conversations about the pipeline of addicts from Puerto Rico to Chicago</a></strong></div></blockquote><div><p>Our listeners wrote us to ask: What are these groups doing with the addicts&rsquo; papers? If they&rsquo;re really trying to keep those documents safe, as Cardona-Maguigad was <a href="http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/554/transcript">told</a> by a founder of Segunda Vida, then why would they keep the papers even after an addict leaves? Could they be selling these addicts&rsquo; identities on the black market?</p><p>It turns out, where Puerto Ricans are concerned, there&rsquo;s added reason for suspicion. Puerto Ricans&rsquo; identities are especially valuable, because they&rsquo;re U.S. citizens -- with Social Security numbers -- and Spanish names.</p><p>In a federal case against an alleged Puerto Rican identity <a href="http://www.ice.gov/news/releases/50-individuals-charged-puerto-rico-allegedly-trafficking-identities-puerto-rican-us">trafficking ring</a>, law enforcement agents found that a set that included a birth certificate and Social Security card could fetch up to $2,500 on the black market. With that, an undocumented immigrant from South or Central America could obtain work authorization, a line of credit or even a U.S. passport.</p><blockquote><p><strong>Related: <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/puerto-rico-exports-its-drug-addicts-chicago-111852">Puerto Rico exports its drug addicts to Chicago</a></strong></p></blockquote><p>I started hanging out in the same Back-of-the-Yards neighborhood where Cardona-Maguigad found many addicts in her story. I thought, if I could just ask a few of them to share their Social Security numbers with me, we could find out what&rsquo;s happening with their personal information. Most of the men I found refused to share that data. They told me they&rsquo;d gotten their documents back when they left the treatment programs, and they didn&rsquo;t have reason to suspect foul play.</p><p>But then I met Joel.</p><p>He can&rsquo;t recall when he was sent to Chicago for treatment, but he, too, dropped out of rehab at Segunda Vida. Most mornings, I found him loafing around outside, making friendly chit-chat with other street characters. But he&rsquo;s still very much lost in the haze of his heroin addiction.</p><p>&ldquo;When you go back to this, you get totally lost,&rdquo; he told me one day, speaking in Spanish. &ldquo;I don&rsquo;t even know what day it is.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">&lsquo;It appeared I was working in Alabama&rsquo;</span></p><p>I&rsquo;m not using Joel&rsquo;s last name, to protect his identity. At 34, he said the only identification he carries is a photocopy of an Illinois state ID. Like others who went to Segunda Vida for treatment, he surrendered his documents to the people running the program. Confiscating identifying papers is common practice at these kinds of unofficial treatment facilities. When he left, he said he didn&rsquo;t get his documents back. He tried, returning to the residence several times, but eventually he gave up.</p><p>Later, Joel learned that his identity was being used by someone else. He discovered it when he found that his unemployment benefits had been frozen.</p><p>&ldquo;When I went to the unemployment office I was told that they had to stop payment because it appeared I was working in Alabama and I had additional income there,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Joel shared his Social Security number with me, and with it, I got a rundown of his earnings over the years. What I found were classic signs of identity theft.</p><p>First, Joel said he hasn&rsquo;t held a steady job in years. He recalled working at a corrugated paper factory in Chicago and some brief stints canning jalapenos and olives. But his record shows continuous earnings for nearly a decade -- roughly $30,000 a year since 2006. Plus, the earnings swing erratically. One year it&rsquo;s as high as $52,000, and another, it&rsquo;s less than $16,000. And a lot the work is with temporary staffing agencies and food processing companies -- two industries known for hiring undocumented immigrants.</p><p>Because it looked suspicious, I took what I found to a man named George Rodriguez. Rodriguez described himself as a founder of Segunda Vida and a former addict himself. He denied that the program ever sold addicts&rsquo; identities, and said people always get their papers when they leave.</p><p>Clearly that was not the case with Joel. And soon I found that he&rsquo;s not the only one in this situation. In fact, the next guy I met had an even wackier story.</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">&lsquo;My credit was ruined&rsquo;</span></p><p>Juan, 40, was told that the rehab program that he went to &ldquo;lost&rdquo; his papers.</p><p>&ldquo;They kept my papers, my Social Security card, my ID, my birth certificate, everything,&rdquo; he said in Spanish.</p><p>Then last year, he tried to get a car loan. That&rsquo;s when he got his first inkling that something was up with his personal information.</p><p>&ldquo;They said no because my credit was ruined,&rdquo; he said.</p>So I took Juan&rsquo;s Social Security Number, too, and showed what I found to several experts. Here&rsquo;s a snapshot:</div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/image%20%281%29.png" title="Juan, a drug addict from Puerto Rico, arrived in Chicago in 2003. That same year, earnings associated with his Social Security Number rose dramatically." /></div></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div><p>&ldquo;Wow. Well. I know they say America&rsquo;s the Land of Opportunity, but, boy, has his income jumped since arriving on the mainland,&rdquo; said William Kresse, a professor at Governors State University and an expert on identity theft, on seeing Juan&rsquo;s incomes.</p><p>The first red flag Kresse identified was the year that Juan&rsquo;s income jumped significantly.</p><p>&ldquo;Suddenly in 2003, the year that he was brought to the Chicago area, it jumps to almost $30,000, and then almost $44,000. And, oh my goodness, $116,000, almost $168,000,&rdquo; said Kresse. &ldquo;Yeah, this is remarkable.&rdquo;</p><p>There were even earnings during times that Juan was in jail for theft and residential burglary. His records paint a frenetic picture, of a guy processing beef in Washington state, removing snow in Illinois, working at a Wendy&rsquo;s fast food restaurant and holding thirteen other jobs&hellip; all in a single year.</p><p>There are some things we can&rsquo;t say for sure. We can&rsquo;t say that Juan and Joel&rsquo;s identities were sold by the drug rehab programs. We can&rsquo;t say that everyone who&rsquo;s gone to one of these programs is a victim of identity theft. We can&rsquo;t even say for sure that Juan and Joel didn&rsquo;t sell their identities themselves. I asked, and they both said they didn&rsquo;t. But federal law enforcement officials have found that some Puerto Rican addicts do that for a bit of cash.</p><blockquote><p><strong>Related: <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/sheriff-dart-investigate-unlicensed-rehab-centers-111938">Sheriff calls on feds to investigate Puerto Rican agencies that send addicts to Chicago</a></strong></p></blockquote><p>That said, Bill Kresse said there is still enough here to warrant further action.</p><p>&ldquo;Definite red flags to show that there&rsquo;s probable cause to go ahead with a further investigation, in fact a criminal investigation into this,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;The numbers alone should justify a criminal investigation.&rdquo;</p><p>Kresse wasn&rsquo;t the only one to say this. We found lots of officials who said there&rsquo;s enough here to warrant concern. A federal prosecutor. A former Chicago police officer. Two former FBI agents. Someone with the Social Security Administration. The Illinois Department of Human Services. They agree that if these treatment places are organized schemes to set up vulnerable drug addicts for identity theft, somebody should go after them.</p><p>But nobody agrees on who should look into it.</p><p>Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan&rsquo;s office said it&rsquo;s a matter for Chicago Police or the FBI. Chicago Police and the FBI said there&rsquo;s nothing to investigate if victims don&rsquo;t report a crime. Immigration and Customs Enforcement doesn&rsquo;t talk about whether it&rsquo;s investigating something. And the Social Security Administration said it lacks jurisdiction to investigate identity theft.</p><p>So we know we have something. We just don&rsquo;t have anyone willing to investigate it.</p><p><em>Odette Yousef is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/oyousef">@oyousef</a> and <a href="https://pbs.twimg.com/profile_images/3512712648/36dee91a3ceeb66e8253372b9e042d0c_400x400.jpeg">@WBEZoutloud</a>.</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p></div><p><span style="font-size:24px;">More stories and conversations about the pipeline of addicts from Puerto Rico to Chicago<a name="playlist"></a></span></p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="350" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/playlists/121617509&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p></p> Mon, 06 Jul 2015 22:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/drug-addicts-sent-puerto-rico-may-be-victims-id-theft-chicago-112325 Puerto Rico exports its drug addicts to Chicago http://www.wbez.org/news/puerto-rico-exports-its-drug-addicts-chicago-111852 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/01%20Angel%20and%20Manuel%20in%20abandoned%20house%20by%20Adriana%20Cardona-Maguigad.jpg" style="height: 409px; width: 620px;" title="Over the summer Angel and Manuel lived together in an empty house near 51st and Throop, an area where vacant homes are common. (Adriana Cardona-Maguigad)" /></div><p>It all started about a year ago when I began noticing more homeless men in the Chicago neighborhood where I work. Back of the Yards is a community that faces some of the city&rsquo;s toughest problems: joblessness, crime, drug use.<br /><br />Many of these men would be sitting in doorways or shuffling along, many times asking for money.<br /><br />One day, I asked one of them: &ldquo;Where are you from?&rdquo; He told me a story that I later heard again and again and again.<br /><br />The men told me they were&nbsp; from Puerto Rico. They were addicted to heroin and they ended up in Chicago because someone in Puerto Rico drove them to the airport and put them on a plane with a one-way ticket to Chicago.<br /><br />They were promised a great rehab place, with over-the-top services and plenty of medical staff. One of them is Angel, a short and dark-skinned man. He&rsquo;s missing most of his top teeth. He said he came to Chicago from Puerto Rico seven years ago for help kicking a heroin addiction.</p><hr /><blockquote><p><strong>Puerto Rico to Chicago in Photos</strong></p><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://interactive.wbez.org/puertoricochicagopipeline/"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/photogallerypuertorico.jpg" style="height: 160px; width: 200px; float: left;" title="" /></a></div><p><em><a href="http://interactive.wbez.org/puertoricochicagopipeline/">Click here to explore more photos from the story</a>&nbsp;and get a glimpse into the world of addicts traveling from Puerto Rico to Chicago, including their lives on the island.</em></p></blockquote><hr /><p><span style="font-size: 22px;">&#39;I no see nothing&#39;</span></p><p>&ldquo;Somebody told my family is one rehab in Chicago got nurse, got pool, got medication, when I get here I no see nothing,&rdquo; he said.<br /><br />Angel said that when he landed in Chicago he was met at the airport and taken to a place that definitely had no pool. That place didn&rsquo;t have social workers or doctors. Instead, it was just a rundown building with other addicts trying to stay clean, sleeping on dirty mattresses on the floor, going cold turkey.</p><p>Other guys told me something that was hard to believe. They said that it was the police in Puerto Rico who had driven them to the airport and put them on the plane to Chicago.</p><p>And the one-way plane ticket? Some of the men said if someone didn&rsquo;t have the resources to travel, their mayor or some other local official would help buy them a ticket.<br /><br />I have been a journalist in this neighborhood for five years and I couldn&rsquo;t believe this was happening here, right outside my door.</p><p>I wanted to find more people in this situation. I had seen all these men&nbsp; on the streets before, selling lotions, batteries or socks around 47th Street.&nbsp; It turned out, many of them were also from Puerto Rico.</p><p>In just a few months, I met 23 Puerto Ricans with similar stories.&nbsp;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Has anyone else heard these stories?</span></p><p>I needed to figure out who else knew about this. I called&nbsp; homeless organizations, shelters, official drug rehab centers, local aldermen, drug policy experts, but no one had heard about what all these guys were describing to me.</p><p>Until I talked to Jose Alvarez. He has been working with injection drug users in Chicago for 11 years and he&rsquo;d heard the same story I had, from users in Humboldt Park.<br /><br />&ldquo;They were thinking they were going to have their own room,&nbsp; a nice warm place in the winter,&rdquo; Alvarez said. &ldquo;A couple of them even said that some of these places had pools.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/21%20Jose%20Alvarez%20cleans%20up%20needles%20by%20Adriana%20Cardona-Maguidad.jpg" style="height: 427px; width: 320px; float: left;" title="Jose Alvarez picks up used needles from outside an empty house on 51st and Paulina. Alvarez works with drug users through the Community Outreach Intervention Project at UIC. (Adriana Cardona-Maguigad)" /></div><p>Alvarez is from Puerto Rico too. He is a case manager with the Community Outreach Intervention Projects , an HIV and Hepatitis prevention program at the University of Illinois at Chicago.</p><p>A few years ago, he was able to get inside one of these residences to do HIV testing.<br />&nbsp;<br />&ldquo;It was dark, damp and dirty,&rdquo; Alvarez said. &ldquo;Not only that -- we saw a couple of mice running across the floor.&rdquo;<br /><br />Alvarez knew this was going on, but even he didn&rsquo;t know how many Puerto Ricans had been sent here.</p><p>So after our conversation he spent four days going to shooting galleries and shady corners on the West Side.<br /><br />&ldquo;I also went south of the park, around Chicago, around Division all the way west,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo; Do the same with Augusta, you do the same thing with Ohio. Ohio Street? Forget about it. I&rsquo;m pretty sure the police here in Chicago know all about Ohio Street.&rdquo;<br /><br />In all those places, he heard the same story I had, from 93 people in four days.<br /><br />&ldquo;And I&rsquo;m pretty sure that overall in the city, the numbers are a lot higher, because these are only the people that were in the Humboldt Park area and the majority of them wind up in Back of the Yards and Pilsen, Little Village,&rdquo; he said.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Hiding in plain sight</span><br /><br />I asked Carlos, one of the first guys I heard the story from, to show me the rehab place where he ended up.</p><p>Almost all the men I talked to in Back of the Yards went there too. It&rsquo;s called Segunda Vida, Second Life.</p><p>Carlos said it was on 50th Street and Ashland Avenue, but the place is hard to find. It&rsquo;s almost like hiding in plain sight.<br /><br />Finally, I saw a tiny sign in an upstairs window. It was a version of the AA logo.</p><p>Segunda Vida is on the second floor&nbsp; of a rundown gray stone building. It sits between a parking lot and a pawnshop. On a busy street.<br /><br />The first time I tried to visit, I went through a narrow doorway and up a steep staircase. At the top was an open room. Men were hanging around, smoking cigarettes.&nbsp;</p><p>They told me I had to leave. But I went back again and again. Each time I asked to speak to a person in charge. I was repeatedly told to call later or to come back on a different day.&nbsp;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Slowly, a picture forms</span></p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/15%20Grupo%20Renacimiento%20sign%20by%20Adriana%20Cardona-Maguigad.jpg" style="height: 459px; width: 620px;" title="Grupo Renacimiento is a 24-hour group on the North Side of Chicago, on Western near Armitage. (Adriana Cardona-Maguigad)" /></div><p>But slowly, I did start to piece it together. These places are informal drug treatment programs that cater to Spanish speakers.</p><p>Some Mexican families know about them and send relatives with drug or alcohol problems there. They call themselves 24-hour groups because they&rsquo;re open around the clock.</p><p>Addicts sleep there, eat there and they are not supposed to leave for the first three months.</p><p>Drive along parts of Western or Cermak in Chicago and you&rsquo;ll see the buildings. Most of them have &lsquo;24 hours&rsquo; written in Spanish on their sign, next to an AA logo.</p><p>I called the headquarters of Alcoholics Anonymous;&nbsp; a representative there said they have nothing to do with these rehab places. She said AA doesn&rsquo;t offer treatment, transitional living or social services. Its sole purpose is to offer support for people trying to quit drinking.</p><p>I checked on 14 places to see if they had licenses from the state. But they had none.</p><p>I checked with Joseph Lokaitis, a public service administrator with DASA, the Division of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse under the Department of Human Services,&nbsp; but he said he&nbsp; had no idea that these unofficial treatment groups existed.&nbsp; &ldquo;I have not from what you described,&rdquo;&nbsp; Lokaitis said. &ldquo; I think that&rsquo;s surprising. That&rsquo;s not something I have heard of.&rdquo;</p><p>I&nbsp; went to the city department of planning and development, which gives permits for residential drug treatment centers. They had no records.</p><p>I requested information from the Chicago Department of Buildings and there were many violations and complaints connected to the addresses where some of the&nbsp; treatment groups are housed.</p><p>These facilities spring up now and then. They&rsquo;re run by former addicts and they&rsquo;re easy to fold up, move and relocate.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Finding Manuel</span></p><p>As I found out more about these groups, I kept finding more people, men and women, on the street with a similar story. Like Manuel, a tall, skinny man who is using a different name to protect his identity.<br /><br />He can only see through one eye and often stares vacantly into space.<br /><br />I asked if he came to Segunda Vida. He said yes, he&rsquo;d been here for two weeks. He seemed scared. He looked lost, alone and worried about the winter.</p><p>He told me what a lot of other guys had &mdash; the &lsquo;treatment&rsquo; there was mostly a lot of yelling and harsh behavior.</p><p>When Manuel walked out, he left his ID and other documents. He said he tried to get them back, but was turned away.&nbsp;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Manuel%20diptych.jpg" style="height: 424px; width: 620px;" title="Manuel when he arrived in Chicago (left) and another photo taken in April 2015." /></div><p>I offered to go with him to Segunda Vida to get his papers. That Saturday afternoon as we walked towards Segunda Vida, my heart was racing. I could tell Manuel was nervous too.<br /><br />Manuel went up the narrow stairway, I followed closely behind. When the people there saw me coming up with a microphone, they blocked us at the top. Manuel asked for his documents.<br /><br />A man told us to leave, that we needed to wait outside. More people came up the stairway, surrounding us. Everyone was tense.&nbsp;</p><p>I kept telling them that I wouldn&rsquo;t leave until I get Manuel&rsquo;s documents: &ldquo;No first of all, we are accompanying him so that he can get his papers.&rdquo;<br /><br />A participant from the group kept insisting that we need to wait outside and that I won&rsquo;t be able to interview or speak with anyone from Segunda Vida.</p><p>&ldquo;You know why I come here?&rdquo;&nbsp; a man from the group said. &ldquo;Cause I do have problems, that&rsquo;s why it&rsquo;s anonymous. That&rsquo;s why we come here to liberate our pressure. Like, we can&rsquo;t do that in front of you because you won&rsquo;t understand us.&rdquo;<br /><br />Finally, someone handed Manuel a white envelope with some documents, but they didn&rsquo;t include his ID.&nbsp;</p><p>After another tense wait, someone pushed through the crowd and handed over Manuel&rsquo;s ID.<br /><br />Other people were coming up the stairs. We knew we had to leave. Once we walked out, some of the men followed us out and watched us from the sidewalk.<br /><br />Among the documents were Manuel&rsquo;s one-way plane ticket and a copy of his medical records, where I found out he is HIV positive.<br /><br />This is crazy. Sick people are being sent thousands of miles from home to unlicensed drug rehab places in Chicago?<br /><br />I decided to go to Puerto Rico for some answers.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">An island of natural beauty</span></p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/28%20Tourism%20in%20Puerto%20Rico%20by%20Adriana%20Cardona-Maguigad.jpg" style="height: 350px; width: 620px;" title="A cruise ship at port in El Viejo San Juan, Puerto Rico. Tourists flock to Puerto Rico for its natural beauty. (Adriana Cardona-Maguigad)" /></div><p>Puerto Rico is a captivating place. The island is a commonwealth of the United States and known for its natural wonders.</p><p>On any given night the echoes of salsa music travel across the narrow sidewalks of El Viejo San Juan.&nbsp;</p><p>But, away from the festive atmosphere lies a darker side. Puerto Rico sits between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. It&rsquo;s a key port for the illegal drugs that come from South America to the United States.</p><p>And drug addiction among Puerto Ricans has become one of the island&rsquo;s greatest struggles.</p><p>To serve drug users in need of services, community organizations, local agencies and even government officials are coming up with their own strategies.</p><p>On Monday nights medical students from the University of San Juan reach out to drug addicts living in the streets around the medical district. That&rsquo;s one of several projects inspired by Iniciativa Comunitaria, a non-profit that offers detox services and drug rehab treatment in the island.</p><p>The students offer basic first aid to the homeless, including I-V drug users who have developed skin ulcers. Last June, I followed them one night as they made their rounds.</p><p>Sahily Reyes is a PhD student at the University of Puerto Rico. She is with a group called Recinto pa la Calle, which translates to From Campus to the Streets.</p><p>Each week the students pack two cars with clothes, food and hygiene products. At one of their stops I met a young man, Louis Reyes Muriel. He was lying on the ground, rubbing baby lotion on his legs almost like he&rsquo;s getting ready to go to sleep.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/33%20Louis%20Reyes%20Muriel%20in%20Puerto%20Rico%20by%20Adriana%20Cardona-Maguigad.jpg" style="height: 194px; width: 320px; float: left;" title="Louis is a drug user who lives in Puerto Rico. He traveled to Chicago for treatment and then went back to the island after spending time in Humboldt Park. (Adriana Cardona-Maguigad)" />He said officials from the Puerto Rican town of Bayamon sent him to one of the unlicensed 24-hour groups in Chicago.</p><p>&ldquo;First of all, the government paid for my ticket,&rdquo; Reyes Muriel said. &ldquo;But the first thing they tell you is that you are going to a five-star hotel, with a pool and everything, but when you get there, it&rsquo;s alcoholics anonymous.&rdquo;</p><p>Several Puerto Ricans I have met in Chicago said they were also sent to Chicago by the same municipality. But I could not verify with the municipality of Bayamon if anyone there helped send users to Chicago. I called and faxed the municipality several times, but no one responded to my requests for more information.</p><p>Muriel said he left the group and lived in the streets of Chicago, mostly around Humboldt Park. He found his way back to the island and was living in the streets of San Juan when I talked to him.</p><p>During my time in Puerto Rico, it was clear that no one is hiding the fact that addicts are sometimes sent or referred to the mainland of the United States for services.</p><p>While some municipalities have programs aimed to connect drug users to services, the largest program, called De Vuelta a la Vida or Return to Life is run by the Puerto Rican police, and connects addicts to drug addiction services in and out of the island.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">&#39;Already reaching that success&#39;</span></p><p>I went to a rally in La Perla, a tiny neighborhood north of the old San Juan. That community is known for its ongoing drug enterprise.</p><p>I run into the governor of Puerto Rico, Alejandro Garcia Padilla and I asked him about the state program De Vuelta a la Vida.</p><p>Padilla said, it has been a successful initiative. &ldquo;A lot of people that isolated themselves from possibilities of success came back with successful options or already reaching that success,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;In many cases homeless and addicts.&rdquo;</p><p>I told the governor that some of the addicts that were sent to Chicago are ending up homeless in an unfamiliar city. Padilla then said they should seek additional help in Chicago, that there is help available.</p><p>&ldquo;I know that Mayor Emanuel of&nbsp; Chicago and Governor Quinn of Illinois have many programs, very successful,&rdquo; Padilla said last June. &ldquo;They should seek help. We want them in Puerto Rico. They are our brothers and here, they could get help and they have it there with Rahm Emanuel and Quinn.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/29%20Puerto%20Rican%20Governor%20Padilla%20plays%20basketball%20in%20La%20Perla%20by%20Adriana%20Cardona-Maguigad.jpg" style="height: 426px; width: 620px;" title="The Governor of Puerto Rico, Alejandro Garcia Padilla, plays basketball with a resident of La Perla. (Adriana Cardona-Maguigad)" /></div><p>Not only the governor of Puerto Rico was proud of De Vuelta a la Vida. The police were also proud of it.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>I met with agent Loribi Doval Fernandez. She is the coordinator of De Vuelta a la Vida.</p><p>She said police officers inform addicts about rehab programs available in other cities and sometimes help send them to the mainland of the U.S.</p><p>&ldquo;We put the participants in our vehicle &mdash; a patrol car &mdash; we take them to the airport and we do not leave until the plane takes off,&rdquo;&nbsp; Doval Fernandez said.</p><p>According to other municipal officials from Caguas and Juncos and even the founder of De Vuelta a la Vida, retired Puerto Rican Police Colonel Benjamin Rodriguez,&nbsp; if families don&rsquo;t have the money to buy a ticket then sometimes municipal mayors or some other officials will help come up with the money.<br /><br />I asked Doval how many addicts have been sent off the island, including to Chicago?</p><p>She said she gets reports on those numbers but doesn&rsquo;t have them handy. Then, I asked. How are the connections with the rehab groups in Chicago and other cities established?&nbsp;</p><p>She said De Vuelta a la Vida police have received information about the groups through word-of-mouth, from social workers and family members who say, &ldquo;Look I know this rehab home. My son is rehabilitated.&rdquo;</p><p>Then I asked: Have you checked with government agencies in Illinois or Chicago about those groups? Are they certified?</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/DeVuelta_1.jpg" style="float: right; height: 180px; width: 280px;" title="De Vuelta a la vida postcard" />She said the addict&rsquo;s relatives are responsible for checking out the rehab services. Doval Fernandez said it&rsquo;s up to the family to make sure the place they&rsquo;re going to is licensed and&nbsp;effective.</p><p>And once the person leaves, she said, they&rsquo;re not Puerto Rico&rsquo;s responsibility anymore.</p><p>&ldquo;The participant signs a liability waiver and they are informed and told that this&nbsp;[program] is outside of Puerto Rico and that we can&rsquo;t do the follow up,&rdquo; Doval Fernandez said. &ldquo;There are times when we call to verify but that&rsquo;s the least we do because that&rsquo;s then the responsibility of the family member.&rdquo;</p><p>After my interview with Doval Fernandez, I filed numerous legal requests asking for data on the program. I sent faxes, e-mails, mail, I called,&nbsp; but I didn&rsquo;t get any answers.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Hundreds leaving the island</span></p><p>Finally, with legal pressure from the Center for Investigative Reporting in Puerto Rico, the <a href="https://www.scribd.com/doc/261490221/Programa-de-Vuelta-a-La-Vida">police gave me some numbers</a>. In the last decade, the Puerto Rican police say the number of &ldquo;participants transported to the United States provided by the police areas from year 2005 to 2014&rdquo; is of 758 people. Of those, 120 came to Chicago.</p><p>Rafael Torruella is the director of Intercambios Puerto Rico, a needle exchange program for drug users on the island. <a href="https://www.scribd.com/doc/261484228/Rafael-Torruella-Thesis">He wrote his dissertation about drug users who are sent off the island for treatment</a>. I showed him the numbers sent by the state police.</p><p>He said police have not collected adequate data. &rdquo;How many drug users are sent each year,&nbsp; for instance. And who is doing the follow ups? I think the numbers in the documents you sent me seems like a gross underestimate of what&rsquo;s been happening,&rdquo; he said.<br /><br />Torruella, who&rsquo;s also doctor in social psychology with a postdoctoral degree from the National Institute of Drug Abuse, said this is happening far beyond Chicago.</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s South Carolina, Wisconsin, New York, Boston,&rdquo; Torruella said. &ldquo;The more you ask, the more you see that this has been happening for a long time.&rdquo;</p><p>Another important question that is not answered by the police in Puerto Rico, he said, is, &ldquo;Do we know that they are being sent to places that are certified as drug treatment programs or this is just a house that&rsquo;s -- a fly-by-night -- quote unquote drug treatment services that was built in order to exploit drug users?&rdquo; Torruella said.</p><p>I filed formal requests with the municipalities of Juncos, Caguas and Bayamon--three places where users I&rsquo;d met in Chicago were from.<br /><br />How many people have they sent to Chicago each year?<br /><br />Only Juncos replied with complete information.<br /><br /><a href="https://www.scribd.com/doc/261490219/Juncos-Numbers">From 2007 to 2013 that municipality alone sent 259 users outside of Puerto Rico to cities in the United States, and about 56 percent of them came to Chicago.</a><br /><br />The mayor of Juncos told me his office has offered financial help to those who can&rsquo;t afford the plane ticket. Caguas officials said they have sent only 25 people to Chicago in the last three years, but did not reply for request of data for previous years.<br /><br />Bayamon&rsquo;s program, Nuevo Amanecer or New Dawn, didn&rsquo;t respond to numerous requests for data.<br /><br />And those are only a few of many municipal programs or local agencies that work with the state police or the municipal governments to ship addicts to services off the island.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">A warning against sending addicts away</span></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/26%20A%20homelesss%20man%20in%20El%20Viejo%20San%20Juan%20by%20Adriana%20Cardona-Maguigad.jpg" style="height: 440px; width: 620px;" title="A homeless man rests on a sidewalk in El Viejo San Juan. (Adriana Cardona- Maguigad)" /></p><p>The only Puerto Rican official I talked to who seemed to know&nbsp; the reality of unlicensed rehab places actually left government last year.</p><p>He was an advisor on addiction affairs for Puerto Rico&rsquo;s drug addiction and mental health organization, known as ASSMCA.&nbsp;</p><p>His name is Doctor Angel Gonzalez. He helped put together a press release last year warning people about unlicensed treatment centers off the island.</p><p><a href="https://www.scribd.com/doc/261490220/Comunicado-de-Prensa">That press release was issued on January 14, 2014 and read</a>, &ldquo;Given the lack of treatment options Puerto Rico faces, some people, families or entities have opted to transfer people with substance abuse disorders to organizations located mainly in the eastern part of the United States, without getting the information about the qualifications of such centers. There is scientific and journalistic evidence about people who have been admitted into residencies without any facilities or adequate services thus having to leave the services without being able to recover their documents (driver&rsquo;s license, Social Security cards, voter registration, Medicaid, etc.)&rdquo;</p><p>The press release goes on to say that on many occasions, these participants find themselves outside Puerto Rico without a home, without the proper documentation to access other governmental services or without the resources to go back to the island.</p><p>I asked if he knew of any data saying that it is effective to treat users in Puerto Rico by sending them off the island?</p><p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t think there&rsquo;s any data,&rdquo; Gonzalez said. &ldquo;I don&rsquo;t think there is. This is basically done because of the lack of treatment opportunities on the island. And the desperate families that go to the mayors and say we tried everything on the island with our son or daughter and help us out.&rdquo;</p><p>Like Gonzalez, other experts I talked to in Puerto Rico said if all the drug addicts on the island were to seek drug addiction services there, only a small percentage would be able to get quality services.</p><p>Gonzalez said here are only six places on the island where a person can get methadone. He said for a lot of people, the closest place isn&rsquo;t close at all.</p><p>&ldquo;For example, I can tell you the people who go to methadone program in Cayey, they have to travel two hours from Guyama to Cayey, then two hours back,&rdquo; Gonzalez said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s a huge problem and it&rsquo;s not going to be solved by sending people to these non-accredited programs in the U.S.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">A bad solution to a problem far away</span></p><p>So I had found some answers at least. Puerto Rican heroin users are ending up on the streets of Chicago as part of a bad solution to an overwhelming problem happening someplace else.</p><p>And even though it&rsquo;s a bad solution, it might not stop anytime soon. Even last December when I was about to leave my office in Back of the Yards, I met a new addict I had not seen before.</p><p>She was a young woman I met on a freezing night. She was beautiful, from Puerto Rico too. Perfect eyebrows, bright eyes, straight white teeth.</p><p>Like other users I talked to, she said she was sent by the municipal authorities from Bayamon. She said she had tried at least six 24-hour groups in Chicago since she came.</p><p>She said after being humiliated in the streets, users like her end up in 24-hour groups only to be yelled at and insulted. It was nothing like what she expected. And Instead of helping her, they have taken her further away from recovery.</p><p><em>For more, <a href="http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/554/not-it?act=1#act-1">follow as Adriana&#39;s story continues on This American Life.</a></em></p><p><em>Adriana Cardona-Maguigad did a lot of her investigation as a fellow with the Social Justice News Nexus, at Northwestern University. She went to Puerto Rico with support from the Fund for Investigative Journalism. Bill Healy and Kari Lydersen and The Center for Investigative Journalism in Puerto Rico helped with reporting. Jesse Dukes produced the audio piece. Chris Hagan produced the digital presentation. Special thanks to Viviana Bonilla Lopez and Wayne Rydberg.</em></p></p> Fri, 10 Apr 2015 13:46:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/puerto-rico-exports-its-drug-addicts-chicago-111852 There in Chicago (#19) http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-01/there-chicago-19-104670 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/05-2012-51st-Bishop.JPG" title="51st Street at Bishop--view west" /></div></div></div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/01-10--1952_0.jpg" title="1952--the same location (CTA photo)" /></div></div><p>How well did you find your way around 1952 Chicago?</p><p>We are in the Back of the Yards neighborhood, on 51st Street a few blocks east of Ashland.&nbsp;In 2013&nbsp;the ribbon commercial strip is mostly gone, with many of the lots vacant. Meanwhile, the city has spruced up the streetscape a bit by planting trees along&nbsp;the sidewalk parkways.</p><p>The main clue to the location is the trolley bus.&nbsp;&nbsp;Only two trolley bus lines ever operated on the South Side--the other was 47th Street. In the distance, the steeple of the former St. Martin Lutheran Church is also visible.&nbsp; &nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 11 Jan 2013 05:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2013-01/there-chicago-19-104670 The Stock Yards http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-12/stock-yards-104621 <p><p>Carl Sandburg called Chicago the &ldquo;Hog Butcher for the World.&rdquo; He wrote those words in 1916, celebrating the city&rsquo;s great stock yards. The yards were the place where live animals were slaughtered, so that they can be turned into packaged meat for consumption.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/1-3--Drovers%20at%20Stock%20Yards.jpg" title="Stock Yard drovers, 1904 (Library of Congress)" /></div><p>During&nbsp;the 1850s Chicago was becoming a railroad center. That made our city the final destination for the cattle the cowboys were driving to Dodge City and Abilene and Wichita and all those wild towns you used to see in the Western movies. At first there were many little stock yards around Chicago near the different railroad lines.</p><p>In&nbsp;1861 the Civil War broke out. Meatpacking boomed. With the industry outgrowing those small scattered sites, a group of railroads got together to build a consolidated facility. They settled on a location near the edge of the city, at Halsted and 39<sup>th</sup> (Pershing).&nbsp;</p><p>The Union Stock Yards began operations on December 25, 1865. The holiday date was not planned. Christmas Day happened to be when the first shipment of hogs arrived.&nbsp;</p><p>After&nbsp;the yards were established, Swift and Armour and the other packers opened plants in the area. Meatpacking became the city&rsquo;s biggest industry. At one time, it employed one out of every five working men in Chicago.</p><p>Conditions on the job could be miserable. In 1906 Upton Sinclair published a novel about a working family in the district titled <em>The Jungle</em>. The book created a national sensation, and spurred reform legislation.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/1-3--Stockyards%201947--Natl%20archives_0.jpg" title="The Yards, 1947 (National Archives) " /></div></div></div><div class="image-insert-image ">The&nbsp;yards eventually took up almost an entire square mile, and there was even an &lsquo;L&rsquo; branch that ran right onto the property. The neighborhood to the southwest became known as Back of the Yards. When sophisticated travelers visited Chicago, they usually included a stop at the Union Stock Yards on their itinerary.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">By the 1920s over 15 million animals were going through the yards each year. With that many animals in one place, the air would get pretty ripe. Sox Park was only a mile away from the yards, and during the summer, when the wind came out of the southwest, the odor was unbelievable. I always thought that smell was one reason the Cubs had more fans than the Sox.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">After World War II the meatpacking industry changed. Large central slaughtering facilities became obsolete. The Union Stock Yards closed in 1971. Today the site is an industrial park.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Maybe it&rsquo;s not a tourist attraction any more. But it sure smells a lot better.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div></p> Thu, 03 Jan 2013 05:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-12/stock-yards-104621 Lost Landmark: St. Basil's Catholic Church http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-07/lost-landmark-st-basils-catholic-church-98845 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/05-16--St.%20Basil%27s.JPG" title="St. Basil's Catholic Church, 1840 W. Garfield Blvd." /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">Bulldozers recently claimed the historic Anshe Kenesseth Israel Temple on Douglas Boulevard. As I followed <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/lee-bey/2012-03-19/after-shepherds-demise-whats-next-citys-other-sacred-ruins-97450">the story on Lee Bey&rsquo;s blog</a>, I was reminded of another lost house of worship on one of our boulevards &mdash; St. Basil&rsquo;s Catholic Church.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">The parish was founded in 1904 to serve Irish and German Catholics in the Back-of-the-Yards neighborhood. Masses were celebrated first in an abandoned blacksmith shop, and later in a combination church-school building. The permanent church was not completed until 1926.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">It was worth the wait. The parish&rsquo;s patron saint had been a bishop in Asia Minor. The new St. Basil&rsquo;s at 1840 West Garfield Boulevard was built in the Byzantine style, along the lines of the famous Hagia Sophia in Constantinople.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">St. Basil&rsquo;s Church was not very large, with seating for about 1,200 people. What made it impressive was the décor. Granite columns rose from granite steps on the portico, and the interior contained frescoes and mosaics in bright colors. Topping it off, 100 feet up from the floor, was a 61-foot-wide dome.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">As time passed, the original families moved out of the parish, and were replaced by Poles and other Eastern Europeans. Later St. Basil&rsquo;s added a significant Hispanic population.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">During the 1980s the neighborhood around the church became predominantly African-American. The Catholic population shrank. St. Basil&rsquo;s closed in 1990, and the parish was consolidated with Visitation parish. Shortly afterward, the Byzantine landmark on Garfield Boulevard was demolished.</div></p> Mon, 09 Jul 2012 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-07/lost-landmark-st-basils-catholic-church-98845 There in Chicago (#8) http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-06/there-chicago-8-99826 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/44--2012--Ashland-47th%20St.JPG" title="Ashland Avenue at 47th Street--view south" /></div><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/44--1935%20%28CTA%29_0.jpg" title="1935 (CTA photo)" /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">How well did you find your way around 1935 Chicago?</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">One clue is the wide street. Another is the Goldblatt&#39;s department store on the southwest corner of the intersection. At the time of the older photo, Ashland and 47th was one of the larger outlying shopping districts in the city. The Chicago Stock Yards were only a few blocks away, so this was truly &quot;Back of the Yards.&quot;</div></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 15 Jun 2012 07:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-06/there-chicago-8-99826 Chicago ward remap hearing draws thin crowd http://www.wbez.org/story/chicago-ward-remap-hearing-draws-thin-crowd-95639 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2012-January/2012-01-19/Hearing2.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Most of the North-Grand High School auditorium was empty Wednesday night as Chicago aldermen held what could be their final hearing in an effort to redraw the city’s ward map.</p><p>The 150 people who showed up did include 15 aldermen who heard complaints for almost three hours about a map backed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel.</p><p>One of the complaints came from Robert Davidson, a tenant leader of the Chicago Housing Authority's Lathrop Homes. “Why would you cut through a public housing development and have people separated when we are a family in this development?” he asked.</p><p>Most of the hearing focused on the Northwest Side’s Logan Square, the South Side’s Back of the Yards, and Ald. Nick Sposato’s 36th Ward.</p><p>Some residents asked why aldermen held the hearing after their leaders said they had united behind a map. “Why do you do the work and then come to us when it’s done?” Davidson asked.</p><p>The up-to-date version of that map hasn’t been made public. But the council could vote on it as early as Thursday.</p></p> Thu, 19 Jan 2012 10:35:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/chicago-ward-remap-hearing-draws-thin-crowd-95639 Mexican Christmas tradition alive and well in Chicago's Back of the Yards neighborhood http://www.wbez.org/story/mexican-christmas-tradition-alive-and-well-chicagos-back-yards-neighborhood-95093 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-December/2011-12-22/3327007263_4e0e833112.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Posadas are a Christmas tradition that is celebrated in Latin America, mainly in Mexico where it originated. In its simplest form, posadas are a reenactment of the journey Joseph and a pregnant Mary made from Nazareth to Bethlehem, where Jesus was born. Traditionally, they are celebrated for nine consecutive nights beginning December 16th and culminating on Christmas Eve.</p><p>Given the Chicago area’s sizeable Mexican-American community, it’s no surprise that over <a href="http://www.archchicago.org/Immigration/pdf/Immigration/advent2011/PosadaDirectory2011.pdf" target="_blank">80 churches in the Chicago Archdiocese</a> have posadas planned for this Christmas season.</p><p>Holy Cross/Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in the Back of the Yards neighborhood is among them. Parishioners there have volunteered to host a posada since the church began to organize them over 20 years ago.</p><p>On the second night of this year’s posada, Holy Cross had some 200 people attend, which is typical even for weekday nights. Participants arrive at the home of the person in charge of hosting the night’s posada. In this case it was the Garcia Rodriguez family, who've been volunteering to host for over 10 years now.</p><p>Shortly after 6 p.m. Father Bruce Wellems of Holy Cross started things off by introducing Mary and Joseph, or rather the boy and girl that volunteered to dress up and play the parts. Mary, Joseph and the rest of the participants huddled on the sidewalk, singing “pido posada” or asking for shelter. The Garcias responded in song that they could not let them in for they could be scoundrels. Father Bruce then gave a short blessing, leading the crowd in a prayer before everyone, including the Garcias, headed down the street to the next house on their list.</p><p>Although it's cold and dark the procession is joyful. As they walk the participants sing about marching to Bethlehem. The procession stops at six more houses, every time they are denied shelter and the group must continue on. Sometimes small bags with candy are given out to the many children that are participating in the posada. Traditionally the procession ends at one of these homes and everyone is welcomed inside for food and drinks. But a group this large would hardly fit in a home or even a backyard, so the procession makes its way instead to the hall adjacent to Immaculate Heart of Mary Church. Here, after asking for posada one last time, the group is finally welcomed inside to the tune of "entren santos peregrinos" or "enter holy pilgrims."</p><p>This is also where the posada leaves behind some the religious symbolism and becomes more of a big family get-together. The church’s marimba ensemble plays Mexican Christmas songs or “villancicos” along with American Christmas carols. The Garcias feed the hungry crowd “pozole” a Mexican stew, and the children take turns breaking a piñata filled with candy. Before they leave for the night each child gets to take home a softball sized piñata, which is handmade by the Garcias.</p><p>For Teodora Garcia the posadas she helps organize at Holy Cross remind her of those her mother and sisters hosted in Michoacan, Mexico. Though Teodora is definitely the lead organizer of this tradition in her family, her husband and five children, ranging in age from 29 to 12, also help out. And now Germain Garcia, one of Teodora’s sons, is thinking about continuing with this tradition. That is if his future family helps out as well.</p><p><a href="http://www.archchicago.org/Immigration/pdf/Immigration/advent2011/PosadaDirectory2011.pdf" target="_blank">For a list of posadas in the Chicago area click here.</a></p></p> Wed, 21 Dec 2011 22:53:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/mexican-christmas-tradition-alive-and-well-chicagos-back-yards-neighborhood-95093 Venture: Mortgage fraudsters hatch post-bubble schemes http://www.wbez.org/story/venture-mortgage-fraudsters-hatch-post-bubble-schemes-90567 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-August/2011-08-13/IMAG1092.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>A lot has changed since the housing crash began. But one thing's still the same. Even though banks have tightened lending, and new regulations are in place, scammers are still finding ways to cheat the system.</p><p>Emilio Carrasquillo is giving me a grim kind of tour in the Back of the Yards neighborhood.</p><p>CARRASQUILLO: Another foreclosure across the street. So you have what, three, four, five foreclosures on this one block.</p><p>This South Side neighborhood is dear to Carrasquillo. He heads the local office here for the non-profit Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago. He keeps an eye on real estate listings, and last year he started noticing something strange.</p><p>Buildings were selling for crazy amounts of money.</p><p>In a neighborhood where banks were unloading properties for $20,000 or $30,000, all of a sudden, buildings were going for 10 or 15 times that. Like this one: A bank sold this boarded-up, graffiti-tagged two-flat for about $35,000 in February 2009 and then:</p><p>CARRASQUILLO: It was sold in November of 09 for $315,000 and it went into foreclosure right away, seven months afterwards.</p><p>But wait: This round of sales and foreclosures happened after the housing bubble burst. Are banks really falling for this all over again? Turns out Carrasquillo is as surprised as I am.</p><p>CARRASQUILLO: How can this be happening again? Who did the appraisal on this? How is it worth $355,000, $370,000, $350,000, $345,000? Where are these prices coming from?</p><p>So his housing agency turned over the suspicious transactions to the authorities. People like this guy.</p><p>PAUL HOLDEMAN: Paul Holdeman, supervisory special agent with the FBI.</p><p>Holdeman won't comment on the cases Carrasquillo discovered, but says loan fraud like what occurred during the housing boom has definitely continued since the crash. People find straw buyers who submit fake employment information to banks to qualify for big mortgages. Appraisers jack up the values of buildings and once one sells for an inflated amount, it's easy to justify other ones in the neighborhood at similar prices. The straw buyers never make a payment and the place goes into foreclosure, keeping it unoccupied for months or maybe years.</p><p>But I asked Holdeman to tell me about new schemes his agents are seeing.</p><p>HOLDEMAN: Now with the downturn in the market, we also see foreclosure rescue schemes which people are taking advantage of individuals in dire straits. And we also see things like short sale frauds, where people are finding themselves underwater, trying to get out of that property so going back to the banks and selling the property for less than what they owe on the mortgage and engaging in fraud schemes there to again extract money from financial institutions.</p><p>GROSS: So what are they doing? How does short sale fraud work?</p><p>HOLDEMAN: With a short sale fraud - oftentimes they'll go to a real estate agent to help them sell the property. The real estate agent may get certain offers. Let's say they have 3 offers. Let's say they get one for $150,000, one for $175,000 and one for $200,000. They may go to the bank that holds the original mortgage note and tell them, hey, we have an offer for $150,000, that's the best we have. So the bank says, we'll review it, all right we'll go ahead and sell it for $150,000. Then that agent knows they have someone who wanted it for $200,000, they can turn around and work it out to sell it for that after the fact. It all involves deflated appraisals, inflated appraisals and kickbacks behind the scenes and essentially individuals who are not exercising their fiduciary duty and making false statements to the banks.</p><p>GROSS: So in that case the bank is not putting out a lot of money in a mortgage - they're accepting a lot less money than they're due?</p><p>HOLDEMAN: Exactly. That's exactly what's going on.</p><p>I asked Holdeman why he thinks banks would fall for overinflated appraisals nowadays. They've made it harder for your average Joe Schmoe to get a loan, so what's going on? He says it's often out-of-state banks that make decisions based mostly on appraisals and loan applications that may be fraudulent, but look good enough to pass muster.</p><p>I called Wells Fargo, the bank that made the $315,000 dollar mortgage on the rundown property Carrasquillo pointed out to me. I asked them, what were they thinking? Why did they make that loan? They wouldn't say.</p><p>But they said they reviewed it earlier this year and found a number of problems with the paperwork on that property. So they told the authorities.</p><p>And there are a lot of authorities working on mortgage fraud - everyone from the FBI and the Department of Justice to the Illinois attorney general and the Cook County state's attorney. Matthew Jannusch, an assistant Cook County state's attorney assigned to the mortgage fraud unit, described some other kinds of schemes they're seeing. One that seems surprising in its audacity involves people submitting fraudulent title documents for bank-owned properties to the Cook County Recorder of Deeds. Then they break the lock and rent the place out, collecting rent until the bank finally figures out what's going on and gets the paperwork fixed.</p><p>Here's an excerpt of the conversation with Matthew Jannusch on the new kinds of post-bubble schemes they're seeing:</p><p><audio class="mejs mediaelement-formatter-identified-1332483594-1" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2011-august/2011-08-13/jannusch-edit.mp3">&nbsp;</audio><br> <br> For his part, Emilio Carrasquillo of Neighborhood Housing Services says he's just tired of watching his communities manipulated like some kind of monopoly game. He says, look at that woman over there who's mowing her grass. She loses out because the buildings around hers are vacant and falling apart all because some people are using them to bilk money out of banks.</p><p>CARRASQUILLO: You look at all these regulations and restrictions they've put on everyone from banks to loan originators and yet this continues to happen. Obviously something is wrong, something is amiss.</p><p>Law enforcement may be making some headway, though. A new mortgage fraud risk report by a company called Interthinx says, in recent months, for the first time in more than a year, none of Chicago's zip codes were among the top ten most at risk for mortgage fraud in the country.</p><p>Still, Paul Holdeman of the FBI has no illusions his job is done. He says real estate is one of those areas where people will always be dreaming up new ways to exploit the system.</p><p>And now for this week's windy indicator, where we take a road less traveled to evaluate the economy.</p><p>Today: Hostels, that low-cost lodging for travelers.</p><p>Mike Haney&nbsp; runs a real estate investment company called&nbsp; Newcastle Limited. He says the lodging industry was thriving when his company bought Getaway Hostel in Lincoln Park four years ago.</p><p>HANEY: End of 2007, beginning of 2008, of course, as the financial crisis really started to unfold, we found that business dropped off here as it did for all lodging properties in Chicago and elsewhere.</p><p>But in 2010, things started to turn around. He says in the last year, more people are traveling - an early sign they're feeling more confident in the economy, even if companies aren't.</p><p>HANEY: We saw an uptick in our business before hotels saw an uptick. Individuals who make decisions to travel can make those decisions much more quickly than businesses typically do.</p><p>Haney says bookings at Getaway Hostel are up 40 percent since early 2010. The day I was there, backpackers seemed to check in constantly and groups of Spanish, German and Asian travelers sat around chatting.</p><p>Mat Meadows, the guy who manages the hostel day-to-day, says the spike in activity includes some atypical guests, like families and professionals in town for conferences. About half of them forgo the bunk beds and spring for private rooms.</p><p>Next week, the windy indicator goes to the opera.</p></p> Mon, 15 Aug 2011 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/venture-mortgage-fraudsters-hatch-post-bubble-schemes-90567 Chicago Democrats clash over Illinois House seat http://www.wbez.org/story/chicago-democrats-clash-over-illinois-house-seat-87408 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-June/2011-06-03/MendozaCityHallcrop.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>A top Chicago official is criticizing the way her party is filling her former Illinois House seat.<br> <br> Susana Mendoza resigned as District 1 representative last month to become city clerk. To replace her, the district’s Democratic ward committeemen chose Chicago police Sgt. Dena Carli.<br> <br> Party insiders say the plan is for Carli to exit the seat this summer, once a long-term replacement establishes residency in the district, which spans parts of several Southwest Side neighborhoods, including Little Village, Brighton Park and Gage Park.<br> <br> The sources say Carli’s replacement will be Silvana Tabares, a former editor of the bilingual weekly newspaper Extra. Tabares graduated last year from the leadership academy of the United Neighborhood Organization, a clout-heavy Latino group.<br> <br> UNO chief Juan Rangel says he doesn’t know anything about the plan but praises Tabares. “She would be, by far, the best candidate to fill the seat,” Rangel says.<br> <br> Mendoza doesn’t think so. She pushed for her replacement to be Evelyn Rodríguez, an aide to U.S. Rep. Luis Gutiérrez, D-Illinois.<br> <br> “Neither Carli nor Tabares is qualified,” Mendoza says. “The citizens and the residents of the First District were completely shortchanged in this process.”<br> <br> The Illinois constitution requires state lawmakers to live in their district for two years before their election or appointment.<br> <br> Tabares, listed at 4335 S. Spaulding Ave., says she’s lived in the district for “about two years” but claims she can’t remember the month she moved in.<br> <br> Tabares says she’s eager to serve in the seat but says she knows nothing about the plan for her to take it. She referred WBEZ questions about the plan to two of the committeemen: Chicago Ald. Ed Burke, Ward 14, and State Sen. Tony Muñoz, District 1.<br> <br> Burke and Muñoz didn’t return the station’s calls about the seat. Neither did Carli.</p></p> Fri, 03 Jun 2011 21:18:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/chicago-democrats-clash-over-illinois-house-seat-87408