Inside Move: Pitfalls along the ‘Road’

MTV reality series hit by Mexican thieves

A correction was made to this article on Oct. 21, 2003.

Filming in exotic foreign locales can be a cheap way to spice up a TV series — until you get stung.

Earlier this month, Mexican authorities arrested a man and a woman in Acapulco for extorting $1,000 from the crew of MTV reality series “The Real World/Road Rules Challenge.”

The con artists had approached staff of production company Bunim-Murray Prods., claiming to work in the office of Mexican President Vicente Fox, and saying the crew’s visas were not in order.

The lead grifter, Maria Antonieta Grajales, said she could arrange proper visas, film permits and any other details for a modest per-diem: up to $5,000 a day.

Surprised crew forked over $1,000, but contacted their Mexican line producer Jose Ludlow. Soon, undercover investigators from Mexico’s Federal Investigations Agency were on the set.

On Oct. 1, Grajales and her cohort, Gustavo Vargas, were arrested when they visited the production office asking for cash.

Mexican authorities say the pair were being investigated for pulling the same scam on other U.S. productions, but the experience was a shock for Bunim-Murray execs, who had filmed twice before in Mexico, several years ago in Cabo San Lucas for “RW/RR Challenge” and last year for the sex-on-the-beach pic “The Real Cancun.”

“We didn’t have any problems with those shoots,” says Joey Carson, COO at Bunim-Murray, adding that he was pleased with Mexico’s speedy police work. “Mexico has really tried to help production down here.”

Still, he says, “In foreign countries you’re always going to have to give people cash tips just to get things done.”

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