Sandra Cortez's Ordeal: Once You're On The Terrorist "Watch List," You Can't Get Offby William Grigg
Jul. 19, 2012
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Sandra Cortez, born in Chicago sixty-eight years ago, has never set foot outside the United States -- yet she discovered, through an error in her credit report, that her name is permanently inscribed in a terrorist "watch list."
Cortez has no criminal record, and an exemplary credit history. In March 2005, Cortez -- who at the time was living in Denver, Colorado -- attempted to buy a vehicle from the John Elway Subaru dealership.
“I thought I would be driving my new car back to work after lunch,” Cortez recalled. “I couldn’t imagine what would happen next.”
Despite the fact that Cortez had a 761 credit score and money for a down-payment, the dealership's manager balked at the sale after running Cortez's credit history through the TransUnion credit rating service. Rather than closing the deal on the $18,000 Subaru Forrester, the manager -- his face drawn into a "stern look" -- assailed the puzzled woman with a series of "strange questions": “Were you born in the United States? Have you always lived in the U.S.? When is the last time you left the country?”
TransUnion had notified the dealership that Cortez's name was on the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control list owing to its resemblance to a "specially designated individual" from Colombia named Sandra Cortez Quintera.
This was obviously a coincidence involving a very common Latino name (it's akin to the incidental similarity between, say, a U.S.-born woman named Margaret Lindsay, and an Irish terrorism suspect named Maggie Lindsay O'Reilly). However, under the so-called USA PATRIOT Act, businesses such as the John Elway Subaru dealership in Denver face draconian fines and prison sentences for extending credit to anyone suspected of terrorist connections (unless, of course, they are connected to terrorist groups currently favored by Washington, such as the Iranian Islamo-Marxist cult called the MEK). Rather than selling Cortez the car, the dealership detained her at the office while it consulted with the FBI.
Eventually, Cortez was able to buy the car, and the dealership -- which had been caught in the same vise -- offered a sincere and extravagant apology. When she contacted TransUnion, the agency insisted that the notifications had been removed from her file. Nonetheless, in June 2006, the red flags appeared when Cortez attempted to rent an apartment. In fact, the notifications materialize every time Cortez has to conduct business that involves credit.
In a 2010 ruling, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals noted that "the alerts often reduced Cortez to tears. The alerts also caused Cortez to lose weight and they interfered with her ability to sleep to such an extent that she resorted to medication."
Following a lengthy legal struggle, Cortez was awarded $750,000 in damages by a jury. The government arbitrarily reduced that award to $150,000, and then stole roughly a third of that in taxes. Most infuriating is the fact that the Regime still refuses to take Cortez's name off the list.
“Most people think if you pay your bills on time, you will be OK in the credit world,” observes Cortez, who now resides in La Mesa, California. “But that’s not how it always works. And sometimes, the mistakes can be paralyzing" -- especially when they are made by entirely unaccountable people who treat the rest of us like inmates in a prison society.
William Norman Grigg [send him mail] publishes the Pro Libertate blog and hosts the Pro Libertate radio program.