Lo Siento

An open letter of apology to the Spanish people

So what's wrong with Mr. Argyros throwing his money around like that? The appearance of favoritism. When Mr. Rackauckas' deputy district attorneys and investigators were poised to file criminal charges against Mr. Argyros, Mr. Rackauckas stepped in and ordered Mr. Argyros' name removed from the complaint. When this behind-closed-doors decision was exposed (mostly by our paper), Mr. Rackauckas was forced to step aside and hand over the case to the state attorney general. The same attorney general and our county's grand jury are now investigating the foundation Mr. Argyros and the alleged mobster created. We're not holding our breath that anything will come of those probes. We'll probably find out months or years from now that the state attorney general didn't press the property-management case because of another behind-closed-doors deal cut with the Bush administration and the U.S. Senate to ensure Mr. Argyros got safely to Spanish terra firma.

By the way, most victims of Mr. Argyros' scams were Mexican and Vietnamese immigrants. Now, I know what you're thinking: Santa Maria, this is a long letter!I know what else you're thinking: if Mr. Argyros has experience screwing Mexicans and Vietnamese, maybe he can do something about the Basques. Resist the urge, señor. Mr. Argyros has proved himself an equal-opportunity troublemaker.

Federal prosecutors allege that a health-care group chaired by Mr. Argyros cheated Medicare—which all working Americans help fund—out of $103 million. Mr. Argyros unapologetically used his financial and political muscle to ram through a shopping center development in a quiet neighborhood of working-class Huntington Beach residents. Mr. Argyros is still shamelessly using his financial and political muscle to ram through development of an international airport next to the quiet upper-middle-class neighborhoods of South Orange County.

His shamelessness knows no bounds. While driving an Orange County-based air carrier, Air Cal, into the ground, Mr. Argyros bought the Seattle Mariners professional baseball franchise for $13 million in 1981. The books show the Mariners profited every year he owned it, but in 1985, after gutting the team of high-priced free agents and talented young players, he pleaded poverty and threatened to move the franchise to Tampa unless the county renegotiated his stadium lease. He went from paying $3.5 million per year to getting free rent for the next two years before the annual rent shifted to $1.2 million per year. But there were even more benefits in the lease deal: if crowds were sufficiently small, taxpayers had to pay Mr. Argyros for the unsold seats. But fans still got screwed: small crowds also meant he could break his lease and move the team. So Mr. Argyros consistently fielded pathetic ball clubs, fans stayed away in droves, he got paid for lousy attendance, and he once again threatened to flee in 1989. That made him the most hated man in Seattle, where no previous owner had ever threatened to move once, let alone twice. Finally, in 1990, Mr. Argyros sold the team—for a cool $77.5 million. He even got the new owner to assume $12 million in club liabilities.

Presidente, this is just a partial rundown of the misery Mr. Argyros has inflicted on good, hard-working American citizens. We can only imagine what he has in store for good, hard-working Spanish citizens. Of course, he'll come up with different spins on the previously mentioned items while whisking you to Paris on his private jet or across the wine-dark Mediterranean on his private yacht. For the sake of the people you serve, be vigilant. While serving on the U.S. taxpayers' dime, he will no doubt be scoping out future business opportunities in Spain. I'd advise keeping a close eye on your rental housing. And your health-care outfits. And your development interests. And your elected officials. And your airlines. And your professional soccer teams. And . . . well, I'm sure you get the idea. Adios, amigo. Matt Coker
OC Weekly
Orange County, California, USA

cc:
King Juan Carlos I
El Pais newspaper
Tele Madrid
Charo

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