You May Already Be a Dupe

The September 3, 1998, issue of the Spanish-language newspaper Prensa Hispana made Phoenix residents Ivan Reyna and Greg McCain look like the luckiest people on the planet.

An article chronicled how Reyna and McCain had been selected as the winners of a contest sponsored by Telemundo 64, Compass Travel, Coors Light and Prensa Hispana.

After being flown to Denver, Colorado, Reyna and McCain's three-day, two-night trip was highlighted by tickets to see the popular Latino group Mana perform at the renowned Red Rock Amphitheater. They stayed in one of the best hotels in the city. And they even went to the Coors Light brewery to see how beer is made.

Sounds like the grandest of grand prizes.
Too bad none of it happened.

Ivan Reyna wasn't watching Telemundo on August 28 when promotions director Marysela Bonillas pulled his name out of a barrel during a live broadcast. He got the news when a friend called and begged to be invited on the junket, since each winner got to take a guest.

Reyna, 24, had never won anything except a couple bucks on Lottery scratchers, so he didn't believe his good fortune until he heard a message on his answering machine from Bonillas herself.

Reyna, who knew Bonillas from the time they took a class together at Arizona State University, called and told her there might be a problem with the Wednesday-through-Friday trip. He'd recently started working at Honeywell full-time, and he wasn't sure if his boss would give a new employee half the week off.

"Marysela said that would be good, because the travel agency had accidentally booked a flight to San Antonio, and it would cost $1,000 to change it," says Reyna. "She offered a trip to Vegas, but I don't really like Las Vegas, so I asked for a trip to Mazatlan."

Reyna says Bonillas told him she would see what she could do.
Reyna didn't hear from Bonillas for almost three weeks. The next call he got about the contest was from his mother, saying she had seen his name in Prensa Hispana. When Reyna obtained a copy of the article, he was floored.

"The headline was in big, bold letters, and it was a half-page article," says Reyna. "I thought it was weird that they'd run something like that. It had details about the concert, the tour of the Coors facility, and basically how much fun we had."

Reyna phoned Bonillas to confront her about the article and to check the status of his trip. He says Bonillas told him that after learning he couldn't take the trip as scheduled, she had tried to contact the newspaper to head off the story, but it was too late to stop the presses.

As the state's largest Spanish-language newspaper, Prensa Hispana is one of the main voices of Arizona's Latino residents. The paper is distributed in 57 communities and has won numerous awards, including Best Hispanic Publication.

Presna Hispana general manager Lety Garcia says the article, written by former employee Luis Fernando, was based on information given by Telemundo's Marysela Bonillas. Initially, Bonillas issued a press release about the trip. But Garcia says that Fernando later contacted Bonillas to get more information. Garcia says she was unaware that Reyna's trip hadn't happened until New Times called.

Bonillas denies giving details about the trip to Prensa Hispana.
"That was never told to the person who wrote the article," says Bonillas. "[Fernando] called and asked me the name of the winners, that's it. It made no sense to me to write that they had gone. I'm not going to say they made it up, but I certainly don't remember telling them that they had a blast."

Bonillas says she read the article, but never called Prensa Hispana to say it was a mistake.

"I guess I must have overlooked it," she says. "It just didn't click to me to call them. I didn't think I had to call and tell everybody what happened."

Garcia disagrees with Bonillas.
"We absolutely would have printed a retraction," says Garcia. "She should have told us."

Reyna wasn't too upset about the article. In fact, he hoped it would give him some leverage to actually get a prize.

However, Bonillas told him that Mazatlan was too far away, and he would have to choose a city within a certain radius. Reyna asked for Hermosillo. Again, Bonillas said she'd work on it and get back to him.

A month passed with no word from Bonillas. Reyna called to find out if he would finally be able to collect his prize.

"She gave me all these excuses about why she didn't call," says Reyna. "[Telemundo] had been bought by another company, they were having budget problems, the travel agency had been robbed and their records were lost. She said she was trying to work it out with another agency."

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Matthew Doig