I can’t stop laughing …
SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE, MEXICO — Not long after Kathy and Jim Machir retired nine years ago, they left San Diego for a new home along the cobblestoned streets of this vibrant mountain town four hours northwest of Mexico City.
“We had been on vacation to San Miguel once and loved it,” Jim Machir, now 72, said.
San Miguel de Allende is famous for its colonial architecture, bustling art scene, mild climate and low cost of living.
It has long been a magnet for American retirees, and more than 1,000 U.S. expats now call it home.
The Machirs sold their house in the U.S. and used the proceeds to begin building a new house in San Miguel de Allende.
But their retirement dream turned into a nightmare in December 2018 when they suddenly found themselves unable to pay their contractors.
Their story may send a chill down the spines of the more than 1 million other U.S. citizens, many of them retirees, who live in Mexico. The life savings they had entrusted to their local banker of more than six years had all but disappeared.
“I was speechless,” said Kathy Machir, 67, recalling the moment she found out she had roughly 40 cents left in her account. “It just gives you a sense of ultimate betrayal, loss, horror…”
NBC News spoke to nine American families who say Marcela Zavala Taylor, a former banker with Grupo Financiero Monex, had gained their trust only to disappear after they discovered money had gone missing from their personal accounts. These families, whose estimated losses total more than $7 million dollars, all say they were blindsided by what had happened.
NBC News has chosen not to disclose how much money each individual said they lost over concerns they expressed about their safety.
Jim Karger, 67, and his wife Kelly, 59, moved from Dallas, Texas to San Miguel to retire nearly 18 years ago. The Kargers said they began to rely on Zavala after the brick-and-mortar Monex branch in San Miguel had closed. She continued to represent Monex and handle the accounts of several clients in the area so they wouldn’t have to travel.