By SUSANNA KIM
The reporter in Mexico who described the purported death of two American executives with a crumbling business said they were likely not killed and he may have been “fed” the story.
Antonio Neri Johnston, a reporter for El Occidental newspaper in Guadalajara, Mexico, wrote a story on Feb. 11, describing that the bodies of Americans Michael Davies and Derald Johnston, identified as the CEO and CFO, respectively, of Southridge Enterprises in Dallas, had been discovered.
Johnston said a man who claimed to be a police officer in a remote village said two bodies were found in a river with documents showing their identities.
“The strange thing is, they called me, but also other colleagues,” Johnston, who could not be reached for comment today, told Dallas ABC affiliate WFAA.
But Johnston said neither local police nor American authorities have evidence of a crime where the bodies were found, nor that the men have been reported missing or even that they existed in the first place.
“We were fed a story, and many of us ran with it,” Johnston told The Dallas Morning News.
The Securities and Exchange Commission terminated the registration of Southridge Enterprises Inc. in 2011, noting that there were approximately 134 stock “holders of record.” ABC News was not successful in attempts to contact an attorney and law firm once associated with the company, Carrillo Huettel LLP, in San Diego, Calif.
According to one of its press releases on its website, Southridge Minerals announced in November 2012 that it “hired new legal representation” but did not specify which law firm.
Southridge Mineral states that it was in the “development and acquisition of gold and silver mines in Mexico,” but Bandera Gold, a competing company, said Southridge claimed to have business in places in Mexico where none existed.
Starting in early 2012, Southridge began issuing press releases indicating that it had surface rights to Cinco Minas in Jalisco, Mexico, something that caught the attention of Bandera Gold, a gold exploration company in Alberta, Canada, that said it has ownership of the land.
Bandera Gold has been in a legal dispute with its former joint venture partner since 2008 over a $5.6 million agreement to invest in Cinco Minas.