Missing Dallas executives may have faked their deaths in Mexico

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by ANGELA KOCHERGA

WFAA Border Bureau

Posted on February 17, 2013 at 11:27 PM

Updated Monday, Feb 18 at 1:03 AM

GUADALAJARA, Mexico — There are growing questions about Southridge Minerals, a company that claimed to have a headquarters in Dallas.

The office is empty and the men listed online as executives — Michael Davies and Derald Johnston  — are missing.

There is suspicion they may have tried to fake their deaths in Mexico to elude investors.

Mexican news reports said the bodies of Davies and Johnston were found in a remote region near the border of Jalisco and Nayarit states, an area plagued by drug violence.

But a week after the story appeared in Guadalajara newspapers, one of the reporters wondered about the source for his report.

“The strange thing is, they called me, but also other colleagues," said Antonio Neri Johnston, a reporter who wrote the first story about the dead executives.

He based it on a news tip called in by a man who claimed he was a police officer in a remote village. The officer said two bodies were found floating in a river with a briefcase nearby with documents that identified the pair as Americans Michael Davies and Derald Johnston of Southridge Minerals.

The story appeared in several newspapers and also online and on the radio — but none of the reporters quoted witnesses or said they traveled to the remote area themselves.

Photos of bodies and the river are from past news stories.

U.S. and Mexican authorities have no evidence of a crime or accident in the area where the bodies were reportedly found, and nobody has reported the men as missing.

There’s absolutely no proof the American men died mysteriously in Mexico. But there's growing suspicion it's all a hoax designed to escape from investors back home.

Doubts about the deaths appear on the company’s Facebook page — along with complaints about missing money.

The Securities and Exchange Commission suspended trading in Southridge stock on December 28, and questioned the accuracy of statements made to investors about the company’s operations in Mexico.

“I’ve never heard of any mining company,” said Miguel Ramirez, a watchman at office building listed as address for the Mexican mining company affiliated with Southridge.

Ramirez has worked at the small office building for four years. Several tenants also said they did not know of any mining company leasing space. The address is listed as a suite on the 5th floor.

“There’s no fifth floor,” said Ana Cristina Miranda one of the tenants. “Maybe they’re a fraud.”

E-mail akocherga@belo.com

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