Beauty queen jailed for her millionaire husband's murder
When Adam Anhang left the Pink Skirt nightclub in Puerto Rico's Old San Juan, he had no idea what was about to happen. A man appeared, an altercation occurred and the assailant then made off having robbed and fatally stabbed Adam and injured his wife.
Adam was a Canadian entrepreneur who had made his money through real estate and video games software. More recently, he had bought the Pink Skirt nightclub, in his wife's home country, and more and more Puerto Ricans were becoming aware of both his presence and his wealth.
Police acted quickly and local man Jonathan Roman Rivera, 22, was swiftly arrested. Ostensibly, it was a robbery gone wrong and it seemed that justice had now been served. However, Adam's father - Abe Anhang - suspected that the truth was somehow even darker.
Jonathan Roman Rivera was a dishwasher at the Pink Skirt, which Adam had bought for his wife to manage. Furthermore, Adam had informed her of his intentions to divorce her just days before the attack and soon after, she had fled to Italy.
Áurea Vázquez-Rijos was a beauty queen who had won Miss Puerto Rico Petite. She had only been married to Adam for six months before he was killed. The couple had signed a prenuptial agreement before the marriage as he had an estimated net worth of $24 million, dwarfing Vazquez's net worth of $62,300.
Abe therefore deduced that his son had been worth more to Vázquez dead than alive. Adam had moved out to Puerto Rico and, as his father saw it, Vázquez and those around her were increasingly taking liberties and relying heavily on his money and hospitality. A divorce would have been a terrible outcome for the entire Vázquez family.
A retired Winnipeg lawyer, Abe hired a private detective in Milan known only as "Farouk" and used a network of informers to locate Vázquez. "We knew where she was all the time," he told Global News. "But we couldn’t touch her." The murder took place in September 2005 however, it would take a further seven years of meticulous tracking and chasing before she was captured.
Importantly, Vázquez had worked in public relations in New York and had an American passport. The FBI were therefore able to assist Abe in his investigation. But, crucially, they had no jurisdiction in Italy and would need to convince her to visit a different country in order for her to be extradited.
A Jewish family, the Anhangs had hoped that Vázquez would join their faith after her marriage to Adam. Bizarrely, this is a promise she only fulfilled after Adam's death - when she joined an Orthodox Jewish community in Italy.
However, she had faked documents to prove that she was Jewish and exploited others' kindness. Vázquez had already had twins with an air-conditioner contractor in Florence by the time she met a third man who she had planned to wed.
Explaining to new acquaintances that she was a widow, she also claimed that her late husband was the father of her twins. "One of the basic tenets of Jewish charity is especially to look after widows and orphans," Abe explained, in relation to Vázquez's gameplan.
Farouk, Abe's private investigator, discovered even more information about Vázquez - such as her relationship with a married wealthy banker named Paolo Galardi. He fought to have his name removed from the press, set up a travel company for Vázquez and has always protested that she is innocent. “Justice makes mistakes,” he said in an interview with 16×9.
In 2008, Vázquez was approached in Florence by a reporter from a Puerto Rican newspaper. He offered to tell her side of the story and she agreed but asked for $5,000 to which he politely declined.
When Vázquez was exposed by an Italian newspaper, her fiancé called off the marriage and she swiftly relocated. By now, public opinion was against her and she became known as the "Black Widow" in the press. Yet, as Abe discovered, she had been going on trips to other European countries - from which she could legally be extradited.
As Abe explains: "She had access to three or four identity cards, she was using three or four different names, different hairstyles, different hair colourings. So by the time we found out she had been in another country, she had already left it." He adds: "She's a pro in every possible sense of the word."
Nonetheless, the $1,000 per day that Abe had been shelling out on Farouk had finally paid off. He gave this new information to the FBI and they set about creating a sting operation in which she would be lured into a tempting trap.
US consular officials in Italy had already renewed her American passport. Needless to say, this would be unusual for a wanted person. However, it is suspected that this was done in order for her to travel on this passport - and make her way to Spain.
The FBI used a trusted contact to get her onto a Madrid-bound flight, under the pretence of meeting a tourist group. On 30 June, 2013, she was arrested in the Spanish capital as she arrived. "I got a call 10 minutes after she landed," Abe explains.
It was discovered that others, including Vázquez's sister Marcia Vázquez-Rijos, had been involved in planning the killing. "These people thought they could get away with murder," Abe explained, after an earlier hearing. "It’s been a long haul. They’ve been evading arrest, evading the law, evading taking responsibility and pretending they had nothing to do with it."
Now 80 years old, Abe has finally seen his hard work come to fruition. Vázquez has been sentenced to life in prison in a Puerto Rican court not far from where Adam died. The judge recommended that she spend the rest of her life at Fort Worth prison in Texas.
However, the court hearing wasn't without incident. "You lost [a son] but I lost, too," she said, according to the Winnipeg Free Press. "I lost a man I love. I was murdered. A part of me died... I am innocent and time will prove it. That is all." She also accused Abe of character assassination.
It has transpired that she promised $3 million for the murder of Adam, on the proviso that it looked like a robbery gone wrong. "I hope you're happy now," she told Abe in court. He then responded, "shut up!"
It is a bittersweet victory for Adam's family. "It certainly helps to put it behind us, but you can't forget your own child who dies before you do," Abe told the Associated Press. "If you lose a child, there's never closure."
Speaking to VT, Abe stated: "We are grateful to the United States Attorneys Office in San Juan, led by Rosa Roderiques, the FBI, headed by Douglas Leff, and Judge Daniel Dominguez for having persevered with us these many years.
He added: "Thank you also to the many people who have shown their support. Justice was finally done, and the system does work. Let it never again be said that in Puerto Rico the first murder is free."
After years waiting and watching, a joint operation between Abe, Farouk, informers, the FBI, Interpol and the Spanish police has finally seen Vázquez captured and brought to justice. While it won't bring Abe's son back, hopefully it will help him sleep a little easier at night.