Symington Family Partner Under Suspicion

U.S. authorities suspect a Mexican vegetable grower with business ties to the Symingtons is involved in drug trafficking

Finally, DPS Director Joe Albo last month severed a 15-year joint operation with the Drug Enforcement Administration when he withdrew DPS officers from DEA-led task forces in Phoenix and Tucson. DPS officials say they could better utilize their manpower in other ways.

DPS is torn by dissension in the wake of Warner's promotion to assistant director in December--a promotion that was requested by Governor Symington ("DPS: Department of Political Safety," February 6).

Warner's rapid rise to power from a lieutenant in charge of Symington's personal security detail in 1995 to the commanding officer of the Highway Patrol and Criminal Investigations Bureau (which includes narcotics officers) has angered many veteran DPS officers who say Warner is unqualified to lead the agency and got the job because of his personal friendship with the governor.

The Symingtons' extensive financial ties to the Canelos family were first revealed in May during a sworn deposition given by Ann Symington in connection with the governor's bankruptcy case. The governor's wife testified that she had invested $25,000 in Melones Internacional in November 1995, two months after her husband filed for bankruptcy, claiming $26 million in debts and $65,000 in assets.

Ann Symington stated in the deposition that she invested in the company because her stepson, J. Fife Symington IV, was a partner.

The governor's wife increased her investment in Melones Internacional to as much as $100,000 in 1996, according to the governor's financial disclosure statement filed in January with the secretary of state.

Mexican incorporation documents filed in Culiacan and obtained by New Times state that Alejandro Canelos Rodriguez is the president of Melones Internacional and his son, Alejandro Nicolas Canelos, is the secretary. The incorporation records state that a "J. Fife Symington" is a director. None of the directors was required to sign the incorporation papers.

The vagueness of the filing raised the possibility that the governor is a director in Melones Internacional.

When New Times disclosed that it was unclear which J. Fife Symington was a partner in Melones Internacional ("Fife's Mexican Connection," December 26, 1996), the governor's bankruptcy attorney, Robert Shull, stated that the Melones director is not the governor, but his son, J. Fife Symington IV. However, Shull has provided no proof such as additional corporate filings that bear signatures.

Using the name J. Fife Symington without generational designation is unusual for the Symingtons. In Arizona, the two men have been careful to separate their business interests. Arizona Corporation Commission records show the governor affixes "III" and his son "IV" to their names on corporate filings.

According to the Mexican incorporation papers, director Symington and the elder Canelos have more powers than the younger Canelos. Symington and the senior Canelos are authorized to obtain credit from Mexican and foreign institutions and to open and operate checking accounts, powers not granted to the junior Canelos.

Mexican government records also reveal Melones Internacional is chartered as more than just a melon-growing concern. The company's charter also allows it to conduct commercial and residential real estate activities, businesses in which Governor Symington has extensive experience.

And the incorporation documents state that since the majority of its stock is controlled by Mexican citizens, the company gives its directors, including "J. Fife Symington," access to real estate along coastal areas and international borders that foreigners are otherwise forbidden to own.

The links between the Caneloses and Symingtons may have been forged by the two sons.

J. Fife Symington IV and Alejandro Nicolas Canelos attended Harvard University together beginning in 1988. They lived in the same collegiate hall at Harvard--Eliot House--and both graduated in May 1992.

The pair has formed at least two Arizona corporations, state records show. The men, in their late 20s, are the sole directors in Symington & Canelos Industries Incorporated. The company's March 1994 incorporation papers state that it specializes in the manufacture, purchase, sale and distribution of lumber products.

In December 1995, J. Fife Symington IV, Nicolas Canelos and another son from the governor's first marriage, Scott H. Symington, formed Fruit Stand Incorporated. The company sells fruits and nuts in shopping malls.

Governor Symington has used his official position in an attempt to further the business interests of Alejandro Canelos and members of his family. The governor has lobbied Congress and the state Legislature on trade issues and has communicated with Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo.

Last spring, the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas (PFAA), a Nogales, Arizona, trade organization representing Mexican growers, sought Symington's help in a trade dispute that erupted between Mexican and U.S. tomato growers. One of Alejandro Canelos' companies, G.A.C. Produce, is a member of PFAA.

Symington lobbied Congress and fellow governors to support Mexican growers. (Symington publicly disclosed his wife had an investment in Melones Internacional in his 1995 and 1996 state financial disclosure statements but failed to identify the enterprise as a Mexican corporation. Instead, Symington gave a Phoenix address for the company, 345 East Windsor, apparently a residence.)

Symington's lobbying efforts on behalf of PFAA were successful, culminating with a communique, signed by 10 U.S. governors, that was critical to the association's effort to thwart U.S. trade sanctions.

PFAA expressed its gratitude to Symington in a July 2, 1996, letter that stated, "the entire membership of the Association is eternally grateful for the effort of you and your staff."

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