The Western Union Roommate Scam By The Chilean Jorge

After more than a month of looking for a roommate, we finally got a lead from a guy who seemed interested. We met him in a shopping center on Calle 72 and he started to tell us about himself. His name is Jorge, he is a Chilean and he has come to Bogota to design vertical gardens that will be attached to the Transmilenio stops as well as many downtown buildings. His introduction was flawless. Then his story took a somewhat ominous turn. “On my first day in Colombia I was robbed outside of the Western Union at knifepoint and the guy got off with $1,600,000 pesos I had just received from my wife in Chile,” recounted Jorge as we sat on a bench in the shopping mall with him. From that point on the story became even more fishy. Apparently, according to Jorge, Western Union sells insurance on any transaction it does for an additional $10,000. “I didn't want to get the insurance, but the teller insisted. I told her twice, ‘No thanks, I don't need insurance.' She then told me that 3 people had been mugged in front of that Western Union location and she would strongly recommend that I get the insurance,” said Jorge. “I finally said, yes.”

Up until that point he seemed like a nice enough guy, he had those cool reading glasses that detach at the nose with a band that went around his neck. He was wearing a blue, button down long sleeve T-shirt and a grey hat with the Brazilian flag. He looked like the kind of guy who hung around George Clooney on the weekends. Just based on his attire and personal hygiene, we probably would have rented him the room even if he told us that he was an almost recovering heroin addict. So, we started walking to the Transmilenio to take him to our apartment. I paid his way and gave him some tips about riding the Transmilenio (always sit or stand the closest to the driver as possible and never show anyone your cell phone).

After we gave him a tour of the apartment, he said he loved it and didn't complain about the price. There was one more piece of information he gave, “I won't be able to pay the rent until I get the refund from Western Union, which will take 10 working days.”

He moved all of his stuff in within two hours. As he was moving in he told me a story which I really didn't pay too much attention to. “I was watching you in the parking lot take out the trash,” he said as he wheeled his suitcase down the hallway. “That's strange, I took out the trash more than 30 minutes ago, why would someone sit in the parking lot for a half hour while we were inside waiting for him?” I thought to myself.

From that point on, he was the ideal roommate. He was gone early in the morning and would spend all day out of the house. He never cooked any food, therefore there were never any of his dishes lying around. On the weekends he was never around. I started to wonder, “This guy is too perfect, there must be something going on.”

After two weeks went by and Jorge still hadn't paid us, my girlfriend Kary and I started to get suspicious. There was always some last minute unexpected delay which was going to postpone the money being refunded until the following Monday. A full 20 days had come and gone and still we were left holding the bag. Then one Saturday morning Jorge knocked on our door. “Sorry, I have to go to Melgar to start a new job. I am leaving now and need your signature so the doorman will let me take my luggage out of the building. I realize that I have committed to living here for 4 months, so I will deposit three-months' rent into your account on Monday,” Jorge said to us while peering through the doorway into our room.

Kary was pretty much in shock at that point, so I got up and took a walk with Jorge to the front desk. When I asked the doorman what was going on he said to me, “If your roommate is going to leave, he needs to talk with the building supervisor, her office is above the parking lot.” Luckily, the doorman stopped him from leaving.

I told Jorge to wait in the apartment for me, I then went to see the building supervisor. “In order for your roommate to leave, the person in charge of the apartment needs to submit a letter of all the things that will be taken out of the apartment. The tenant must also leave a deposit of $140,000 for administration fees, that will be refunded in 10 days.” A chill went up my spine after hearing the words, ‘10 days.'

This was the first time in my life I was glad that administration fees were being charged. I went back to the apartment and told Jorge that he would need to come up with $140,000 pesos before he could walk.

“I have only $4,000, just enough money to get a bus to the bus station,” he responded as he opened his wallet. In fact there were just two bills in his wallet. Both for $2,000.

“Well, you need to call your friends in Melgar, because the administration isn't going to let you leave until you pay the deposit,” I said to him. He then walked purposefully back into his room and came back with $100,000.

“Here, take this, I don't have time to deal with this problem. I have to go to the bus station,” he said, avoiding eye contact.

I could feel my adrenaline kick in at this point. “Listen Jorge, a second ago, you only had $4,000 pesos. Where did this extra $100,000 pesos come from?” I asked.

“It is my friend's money. I was supposed to use it for my ticket to Melgar,” he said.

“This isn't a negotiation, the building supervisor is not going to lower the price because you are in a hurry,” I said as I put my hands up, with my palms facing Jorge.

Jorge then turned into William H. Macy's character (the dirty car dealer) in the movie Fargo as he grabbed his coat and stormed off to go get the money.  Unfortunately on his way out, he didn't deliver any memorable H. Macy lines like, “I'm… I'm not arguing here! I'm cooperating. So there's no need to… we're doin' all we can here.”

20 minutes later, the doorbell rang. Jorge was back and had the money. Now, I was even more suspicious of the guy.

“How come when we asked you, you had no money for the rent, but now all of a sudden you can come up with the money now that you are in a hurry to leave?” I asked.

“It's because I don't like to ask my friends for money…on Monday you'll have the money in your bank account for three months' rent…” he then dove back into his Moby Dick-sized tall tale which was turning into a sinking ship.

“Jorge, we don't believe you,” stated Kary. “None of what you have said to us makes any sense. You must pay your debt to us before you leave.”

“On Monday this…on Monday that,” said Jorge.  His story hadn't changed but the pace of his delivery had picked up a notch or two. It was now the two of us in his room with his suitcase which had a lock around the zipper. Kary watched over Jorge's should towards me.

“Jorge, you need to leave us some sort of guarantee that you will come back and pay the $330,000 you owe us,” I said.

“What do you want, all I have is some pictures my children drew for me,” he said, clearly emotional as he tore open his suitcase and put a pile a children's drawings of dinosaurs in my arms, as well as a few pictures of school-aged children in turtle necks. The next thing I knew, there was a 50-year old Chilean man crying in my apartment.

“Listen, these drawings probably are valuable to you, but to me they aren't worth $330,000,” I said as I handed him back the drawings.

“I can't give you my laptop, I need that for work.”

“Where's your passport?”

“I need that for my job as well.”

“How about your clothes?”

“Listen, I am in a hurry, here I need to get to go to…”

“Let me make this as clear as I can. I need something that is worth the rent money.”

Jorge then dug into the bottom of his suitcase and produced a external hard drive. He put it into my hands. “My entire life is on this hard-drive. Everything I have done in my life is there. Please take care of it.”

I looked it over. It seemed to be the right weight. Kary gave me a look like she wanted this whole thing over, so I let him go. Since then there has been no sign from Jorge, nor his money.

LOL. That ***. I hope you learned your lesson.

No offence to you, but borderdisorder, you was never (legally) right to prevent him from leaving, even if he owe you money. In fact, he could have simply called the police and you would have paid a fine for sequestration, otherwise I can't explain how can you prevent a free human being from leaving anytime he wants to.

And if he owe you money, I suppose you did have an official deal,  legalized at the notary? Cause if you didn't have one, you can only blame yourself for being irresponsible.

And yes, the only way for you to have your money back, is either of  your ex-roommate's will, either by a court decision (when you sue him). Physical violence and other similar methods are not accepted (and punished by law) in the modern world.

First and foremost, this scenario is all to familiar with people not familiar with South America. While I agree with the statement "Colombians and money don't mix," this could have happened to me or anyone else not familiar with criminals and scams that exist in Central/South America.

And no offense to you Irefutabilul but I am not going to defend your response because I would have stopped him too. For a country plagued by violence, I do not think it is out of ordinary! Further, I would hardly call stopping someone physical violence. He did not say he personally and physically assaulted him, did he? A criminal is a criminal and should not be FREE.

Matt V. - Manaus, Amazonas, Brasil
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usmc_mv, preventing someone from leaving, is pretty much equal to sequestration. There's no excuse in the fact that some country is more violent than the other. Colombia is a Democratic Republic as far as I know and laws are there to be respected. That Chilean guy,  Jorge or whatever his name was, has the RIGHT to refuse paying his debts (for different reasons). And the guy who started this thread, has the RIGHT to sue him in court. There are no other options.

I have to agree to disagree.

For one, if "Jorge's" intent was to defraud "borderdisorder" that makes it a criminal act punishable by criminal legal action. If the money was not taken with the intent to default yet, Jorge "conveniently" did not pay borderdisorder, well then yes, its not criminal but rather a civil matter. I find it laughable that you do not find this an intent to defraud!

Matt V. - Manaus, Amazonas, Brasil
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It's not intent to defraud unless proofed in court (which is not this case). There's no way you can make yourself justice on your own.

"laws are there to be respected".....LOL LOL! I dont know what Colombia that you thinks exists, but you dont know what you are talking about. You are defending a complete scumbag who was such a coward that he couldnt even pay the bit of money that he owed. It kind of sounds like YOU are this Jorge guy defending yourself. 99.999% of Colombians in this country would and will and do refer to violence when they are not payed what they are supposed to be payed. Irefutibilil, right now here is what you should do: go take a taxi around Bogota for an hour, find out what the cost it, then tell the taxi that you are not going to pay him, and then demand your "right" to leave the taxi...tell him that he cannot "sequester" you...and then you should inform the taxi driver that he has the right to sue you in court. Go do that, see what happens, and then tell me exactly how it goes. That would be a perfect example of backing up your words with personal actions.

You don't seem to get what I'm telling you.

1. I never said that Jorge was right. Probably he was not, and probably he was a scumbag like you said. But that doesn't mean you can sequestrate him or force him physically to pay out his debts. I'm not saying that such things don't happen in life. And I am sure that Colombian taxi drivers would probably do just the same. But legally this is wrong. Legally, to sequestrate a free human being is actually worse than the refusal to pay a debt. Not paying a debt is civil matter as usmc_mv mentioned, applying physical force is penal matter, I am sure you can understand the difference.

So if that Jorge was clever and knew his rights, he would have simply called the police and claimed sequestration. He could have done the same thing about administration, there's no way anyone can keep your goods just like that. If they think you owe them anything, let them sue you. This is the ONLY legal way to sort such things out.

2. Spell my nickname correctly. You can do a copy-paste if you want.


I am not Colombian but I have many Colombian friends and visited the country several time. Every one of them would laugh if I told them I suggest the next time you are robbed sue them. There is no justice in Colombia - only justice for corrupt politicians. Your taxi cab around Bogotá is a perfect example.

I wasn't about to say any other this until someone else opened the can of worms.

Matt V. - Manaus, Amazonas, Brasil
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If Colombia already is so violent, why make it more violent?

I'm extremely surprised that such comments come from usmc_mv, which seemingly comes from the States, the country that invented democracy.


Clearly you have never visited Colombia. And truthfully I suggest you stay out the entire continent. Yes, in the western world the court system and police work in favor of peace, justice and humanity - unfortunately in Mexico, Central and South America it is not so. Trust me, it is actually laughable what you said because an attitude like that could get you killed - if you don't stand up for yourself down here you will be walked all over.

I want to clarify for you that I am not condoning violence or saying it is acceptable. Stopping someone from leaving in Colombia is not kidnapping I assure you. Unfortunately down in this part of the world what is normal for you and I is not normal for Colombians.

You need to understand suing someone in Colombia is not common and if you were to sue someone I assure you it would be extremely bureaucratic and definitely not worth it in the end. Not to mention your Colombians friends would embarrassed.

Matt V. - Manaus, Amazonas, Brasil
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You don't have to speak to me like "I'm a Gringo in Mexico" and like I can't take care of myself. I actually come from a very violent country, where Russian mafia feels like at home. Believe me, I know how it feels.

But this isn't the point. The point is to defend your rights legally. The only reason why that type of violence exists in Colombia, is because people are too afraid and too complacent about what's going on. So what if  the process is bureaucratic and so what if your friends would feel embarrassed? But the distance from sequestrating a guy like Jorge and taking a knife and stabbing him, is very small. And when you go to jail for smth like that, you might regret you didn't let law take care of it.

Stopping someone from leaving in Colombia is not kidnapping? Are you sure about?


And just to clarify your history - the United States did not invent democracy and nor is it the oldest democracy in the world. The Greek invented democracy. Some people could also justify saying Colombia has an older democracy than the United States - I actually would support that statement.

And that is my final post in this thread. Phew. :D

Matt V. - Manaus, Amazonas, Brasil
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I was referring to modern times. Anyway, USA it's a kind of a example when it comes to democracy and the fact that most people know their rights, it's a good thing.

And by the way, the right of "free moving" is one of the most important human rights according to European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR). I'm not sure how Colombian legislation is like, but I'm pretty sure there's no rule that says you can deal your personal matters in a physical manner, even if you're right.