Mexico Seizes 10,000 Gallons of Illicit Alcohol From Resorts After Mysterious Death of US Woman

Bowen Xiao
By Bowen Xiao
August 14, 2017News
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Mexico Seizes 10,000 Gallons of Illicit Alcohol From Resorts After Mysterious Death of US Woman
Bottles of Mexican wine on display at a winery in Mexico City in this file photo. (Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/Getty Images)

 

Mexican authorities seized 10,000 gallons of illicit alcohol after a recent crackdown against 31 resorts, restaurants, and nightclubs in Cancun and Playa del Carmen.

Regulators suspended operations in two locations for unsanitary alcohol and along the way discovered a questionable manufacturer supplying booze to popular tourist hot spots, the Journal Sentinel reported.

That manufacturing company was noted for its “bad manufacturing practices,” but did not release the name of the company.

The wide-reaching crackdown came in the wake of the death of 20-year-old Wisconsin woman, Abbey Conner, in January after a family vacation. She was found in a shallow pool at Iberostar’s Paraiso del Mar in Playa del Carmen where Mexico officials insist she died from drowning. The family suspected otherwise.

Mexican tourist locations popular with young college students, in particular, may have been targeted by these manufacturers for selling tainted alcohol. In particular, Abby Conner’s family believed she drank bootleg alcohol that caused her to fall unconscious before she was found face-down in the shallow pool.

screen-shot-2017-08-14-at-2-56-46-pm
(Screenshot Via Iberostar Hotels and Resorts)

The hotel where Conner died had their lobby bar at the Iberostar Paraiso Maya temporarily shut down by authorities, as part of the crackdown.

Another bar was also temporarily shut down in Cancun called Fat Tuesday. In total, regulators seized 90 gallons of illegal alcohol from the two locations, including some from the bar at Conner’s hotel that was unlabeled.

“This is awesome; this is huge,” Abbey Conner’s mother Ginny McGowan, told the Journal Sentinel.

McGowan, who lives in Pewaukee said the crackdown is a step in the right direction.

“It’s needed. There is obviously stuff going on that needs to be cleaned up and looked into further,” said McGowan. “They need to investigate and interview employees. This makes sense. This needs to happen,” she said.

According to an investigation by the Journal Sentinel last month, dozens of travelers who stayed at luxury resorts, like the one Abbey was at around Cancun and Playa del Carmen, have been blacking out after drinking only small or moderate amounts of alcohol.

Some travelers were even assaulted or robbed. All had barely any recollection of what had happened before blacking out, according to the investigation.

The U.S. State Department only began warning travelers about alcohol risks in resorts after the newspaper’s investigation into Connor’s death.

Mexican Officials did not reveal if any of their findings would lead to a criminal prosecution. They also didn’t say if they were investigating what events led to the death of Conner.

READ MORE:

Mysterious Death of US Woman at Mexico Resort May Be From Tainted Alcohol

The pool at Iberostar Paraiso Lindo next to Iberostar Paraiso del Mar where Abbey Conner and her family were staying in Janaury when she and her brother were found face down in a pool after having a few drinks. ( Lena Bernatsky/Shutterstock)
The pool at Iberostar Paraiso Lindo next to Iberostar Paraiso del Mar where Abbey Conner and her family were staying in Janaury when she and her brother were found face down in a pool after having a few drinks. ( Lena Bernatsky/Shutterstock)

By Bowen Xiao

An American woman who died mysteriously at a luxury resort in Mexico may have drunk bootleg liquor that was tainted or drugged, the family’s attorney said.

Abbey Conner, 20, was found next to her brother Austin face-down in a pool in January, at the five-star Iberostar Paraiso del Mar in Playa del Carmen, where she allegedly drowned to death. The woman, from Wisconsin, was on a family vacation with her mother, stepfather, and brother.

The new information could be a lead for authorities to figure out exactly what caused the death of the young woman. Mexican police say Conner drowned accidentally and refused to investigate further, but her family is not convinced with the police’s answers, the Journal Sentinel reports.

Her brother, Austin Conner, recovered later in a hospital, but Conner was declared brain dead and died a few days later at a Florida hospital. Officials said the pair had blood alcohol levels around .25, which is three times the legal limit in Wisconsin.

The attorney hired by the woman’s parents said the resort was serving bad quality alcohol that was mixed with other drinks, according to the Journal Sentinel.

“They serve alcoholic drinks with alcohol of bad quality and in great amounts, mixing different types of drinks,” wrote Florentino Ramirez in a report on Conner’s death.

The liquor may have been “infused with grain alcohol or dangerous concentrations of methanol, cheaper alternatives to producing ethanol,” states an unrelated 2017 Mexican government report on health risks to the public.

A few people at the resort told the Journal Sentinel they had experienced injuries and sickness after their stay, and others reported similar experiences at resorts around the area of Cancun and Playa del Carmen.

“If it was an accident, where was everybody?” asked Ramirez, according to the Journal Sentinel. “It just doesn’t make sense. There are too many open ends.”

Austin also claimed that he and his sister were not trying to get drunk on the night of her mysterious death. He said the pair drank a few shots of tequila and what Austin thought was a Jägerbomb before blacking out. He woke up in the hospital with a golf ball-sized lump on his forehead.

“I’ve been in college for five years and had my fair share of drinks before,” Austin told the Journal Sentinel. He wouldn’t have put his face down in a  pool to go to sleep, he said.

The sibling’s father, Bill Conner, believes the alcohol may have been drugged.

“Somebody had to slip them some type of drug,” he said, according to the Sentinel Journal.

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