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Lorena Telpuk, formerly María del Luján Telpuk (sometimes María de Luján Telpuk) or the Suitcase Girl (born c. 1981), is a former airport police officer at Aeroparque Jorge Newbery in Buenos Aires, Argentina, who noticed a suitcase with US$800,000 as it went through an X-ray machine in August 2007.[1][2] In December 2007, the money became a very public part of an international election suitcase scandal, known as Maletinazo. When the suitcase scandal became public, she became an international celebrity and appeared on the cover of several magazines, including those of the February 2008 issue of the Argentine edition of Playboy magazine and the March 2008 issue of the Venezuelan edition of Playboy magazine.[3]

María del Luján Telpuk
Bornc. 1981
ResidenceBuenos Aires, Argentina
NationalityArgentina
Other namesLorena Telpuk
OccupationTeacher, policewoman, model
Known forMaletinazo
Height5 ft 5 in (1.65 m)
Parent(s)Yolanda (mother)

In 2008, according to foreign language sources, she changed her name from María del Luján Telpuk to Lorena Telpuk; she posed for additional adult modeling photographs; and continued her pursuit of stardom.[4][5] She also testified in court regarding her involvement in the case.[6][7][8]

Contents

PersonalEdit

Telpuk is a former nursery school teacher.[1] She was raised in a small town in the Santa Fe Province where she taught nursery school, but she moved to Buenos Aires after passing an entrance exam for the Airport Security Police about three years prior to the Maletinazo incident.[1] In the short time since Telpuk has transformed from night shift policewoman to pinup girl almost overnight. She has left the police force, joined a charter airline, begun taking English classes and begun to prepare for a role on Skating for a Dream, an Argentine variety show.[9]

Telpuk's mother Yolanda lives in a middle-class suburb of Buenos Aires.[1] She is widowed and used to work for a pasta factory.[9]

MaletinazoEdit

On August 4, 2007, at 2:45 a.m.,[10] she discovered the money that became part of a political scandal in the electoral campaign of President of Argentina Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. It was in the possession of a Key Biscayne, Florida, associate of President of Venezuela Hugo Chávez.[3][9] The carrier, Guido Antonini Wilson (who is referred to in the press by both Antonini and Wilson and who is sometimes referred to by the nicknames "El Gordo" or "The Fat Man"),[11] is an interpreter and was part of a delegation of executives that traveled to Argentina in advance of Chávez' energy deal signing.[11] He opened the bag at the insistence of Telpuk, who noticed the six dense and perfectly rectangular blocks in the luggage scans.[1] At first, Wilson had explained the items as books and papers.[9][10] When forced to open it, he began to stammer and show signs of nervousness,[9] and he said the suitcase only contained about $60,000.[10] The blocks turned out to be US$790,550.[1] The delegation, which arrived on a Cessna Citation jet from Caracas, Venezuela, chartered by Energía Argentina, SA, carried five Venezuelans and three Argentines who represented their respective governments' energy companies.[1] In a country known for its corruption, Telpuk did not have an interest in a bribe although she felt Wilson may have expected her to be willing to take one. Instead of pursuing a bribe, she reported the finding.[3]

Although the local media of both Argentina and Venezuela gave the story immediate front page coverage, the case faded away until after Kirchner was elected.[9][10] The United States prosecutors believe that the money represented a contribution from Venezuelan President Chávez to the presidential campaign of Argentina's leftist leader, Kirchner.[1] Two days after the December 10, 2007 inauguration, several arrests were announced by prosecutors working for the United States Attorney General. The arrests were for activities related to having offered Wilson $2 million to keep quiet about the contributions from Venezuela to support Kirchner's campaign.[1][10] In addition to Maletinazo, the case is known in Latin America as "Valijagate" or "Suitcasegate",[12] and Telpuk is known as the Suitcase Girl in her homeland, Argentina.[13]

For her part, Telpuk felt she was caught in the "middle of a rivalry of nations".[9] She has been vilified as a mercenary fortune-seeker and CIA lackey.[9] She has received a variety of threats by telephone and email, and had police protection starting when the incident became a public scandal in December.[1] She has even received a bouquet with an ominous note.[3]

Media appearancesEdit

Her first magazine cover appearance was on the December issue of an irreverent political magazine, Veintitrés where Telpuk appeared under the headline "The Bombshell Behind the Suitcase" standing behind a suitcase. She wore little other than a police cap, and another headline on the cover read, "Is She the Key Piece of a Plot Designed by Washington?"[1] She then appeared on the February issue of the Argentine edition of Playboy magazine next to the headline "Corrupción Al Desnudo" (translated as "Corruption Laid Bare").[3] Subsequently, she appeared on the March 2008 issue of the Venezuelan edition of Playboy magazine. She posed with a red suitcase decorated with both the Argentine and Venezuelan flags while wearing a scarf, black leather gloves and black-and-white boots for her Playboy cover appearance. Within the magazine in her pictorial, she posed with fewer clothes and with various props: the ubiquitous suitcase, dollar bills, including the propeller blades of a single-engine airplane.[9] She decided to pursue an appearance on the Argentine variety show "Bailando por un sueño", after Marcelo Tinelli visited her at the airport to congratulate her.[1]

Telpuk has appeared on various talk shows since the scandal.[14] In 2008, according to foreign language sources, she changed her name from María del Luján Telpuk to Lorena Telpuk; she was mysteriously dismissed from Skating for a Dream; and she posed for additional adult modeling photographs in Premium, an Argentine magazine.[4][5] Telpuk had breast augmentation surgery prior to her late 2008 court appearances.[6]

CourtroomEdit

Telpuk testified in court in October 2008 on various days spanning the weekend of October 5, 2008, regarding her knowledge in the famous suitcase scandal.[6] Her October 3 testimony, wherein she contradicted the testimony of Antonini, in which he had stated that he was carrying the suitcase as a courtesy to his companions, was considered a highlight of the trial. On that day, her presence prompted a media frenzy[clarification needed].[7][8] For her part, Telpuk took the stand to testify that she had been offered political asylum by the Federal Bureau of Investigation as well as employment in the United States in exchange for modifying her witness statement that Mr. Antonini Wilson was the owner of the suitcase that contained the $800,000.[15] On November 3, 2008, part of the case was decided in a Miami courtroom when Franklin Durán, a wealthy businessman who allegedly conspired to cover up both the origin and the destination of the suitcase, was convicted of acting as an "unregistered agent" of Venezuela on American soil.[15] On March 17, 2009 Franklin Durán, who was facing up to 15 years in prison, was sentenced to 4.[16]

NotesEdit

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Moffett, Matt (2008-01-09). "'Suitcase Girl' Finds 800 Grand; Stardom Beckons". Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Archived from the original on March 9, 2008. Retrieved 2008-03-16.
  2. ^ "Related Photos". MSNBC.com. 2008-03-18. Archived from the original on March 18, 2008. Retrieved 2008-03-16.
  3. ^ a b c d e Goni, Uki (2008-03-13). "A Playboy Model's Cinderella Story". Time Magazine. Time Inc. Retrieved 2008-03-16.
  4. ^ a b "Mientras arranca el juicio en Miami, la policía que destapó el valijagate posa desnuda en una revista". Perfil.com. 2008-09-02. Retrieved 2008-12-04.
  5. ^ a b Gallo, Darío (2008-07-11). "Bajaron de "Patinando por un sueño" a la policía que descubrió la valija con 800.000 dólares de Antonini". Perfil.com. Retrieved 2008-12-04.
  6. ^ a b c Carroll, Rory (2008-10-05). "Pin-up girl tells how she spotted suitcase stuffed with cash". The Observer. London: Guardian News and Media Limited. Retrieved 2008-12-04.
  7. ^ a b Chardy, Alfonso (2008-10-15). "Miami: South American suitcase-of-cash trial wrapping up in Miami – The case of the money-stuffed suitcase seized in Argentina is winding down in Miami". Miami Herald. Retrieved 2009-05-10.
  8. ^ a b Reyes, Gerardo (2008-10-05). "Playboy pinup tells her side in Venezuela suitcase trial: An Argentine security agent and Playboy model said a Venezuelan businessman agreed that a briefcase containing $800,000 was his despite his earlier testimony". Miami Herald. Miami Herald Media Co. Retrieved 2008-12-04.[dead link]
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i McDonnell, Patrick J. (2008-02-17). "'Suitcase-gate' gives cop her 15 minutes". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on February 20, 2008. Retrieved 2008-03-16.
  10. ^ a b c d e Voreacos, David, Eliana Raszewski and Bill Faries (2008-01-07). "Venezuelan Valise With $790,550 Roils U.S.-Argentina Relations". Bloomberg.com. Bloomberg L.P. Retrieved 2008-03-16.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  11. ^ a b Schweimler, Daniel (2007-08-14). "Argentina probes cash-filled case". BBC News. BBC. Retrieved 2010-05-12.
  12. ^ Chardy, Alfonso (2008-10-15). "Suitcase-cash trial nears end". The Miami Herald. Newsbank. Retrieved 2008-12-09.
  13. ^ Woods, Casey & Gerardo Reyes (2008-09-29). "FEDERAL COURT: Playboy pinup arrives to testify on suitcase cash – The Argentine airport officer-turned-Playboy pinup who set off a scandal when she found a suitcase full of cash landed in Miami to testify in a federal trial". The Miami Herald. Newsbank. Retrieved 2008-12-09.
  14. ^ "Clue witness ready to testify in suitcase money scandal". MercoPress. 2008-09-29. Retrieved 2008-12-04.
  15. ^ a b Barrionuevo, Alexei & Carmen Gentile (2008-11-03). "Conviction in Spy Case Over Cash-Filled Suitcase". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved 2008-12-04.
  16. ^ Lucoff, Mort & David Voreacos (2009-03-17). "Venezuelan Agent Gets 4-Year Term in U.S. in Suitcase Scandal". Bloomberg L.P. Retrieved 2012-01-01.