A Winnipeg woman says her dream trip to Mexico ended up as a nightmare when the 19-year-old was sexually assaulted, then arrested and jailed, only to be released after handing over money. The ordeal, local authorities warned, should serve as a cautionary tale for Canadians travelling abroad.

Megan told CTV Winnipeg on Thursday that she and her boyfriend were staying at the Riu Caribe resort in Cancun, Mexico last week. On Saturday, she said an employee of the resort allowed her into a staff-only area near the pool so that she could change the music. The young woman claimed that once they were alone, the employee attacked her.

“I had my bikini on at that point,” she said. “He was trying to put his hands everywhere all over my body, and I am pushing him off me at that point.”

Megan said she managed to escape the man and immediately went to the hotel’s lobby with her boyfriend to report the incident. She said a few minutes later, the police arrived and arrested her and her boyfriend instead of the employee.

The frightened woman said she was shocked by what was happening and used her phone to record as much as she could of the drive to the police station.

“We were like begging them to not shoot anyone, him or I. And we’re like crying and crying,” she said.

Eventually after a few hours in separate jail cells, the jail guards made them an offer, according to Megan. She said they asked her boyfriend what he wanted to pay them for their release. Otherwise, the couple would remain locked up for another 36 hours, she said.

Megan said they agreed to pay the guards US$400 to be released. She thinks the whole thing was a set-up and the couple was targeted because she had been wearing gold jewelry.

After she returned home on Monday, the woman reported the incident to the Winnipeg police.

Const. Rob Carver told CTV Winnipeg there isn’t anything local authorities can do because the incidents took place outside of Canada. But he said Megan’s story should serve as a cautionary tale to other travellers considering a vacation in Mexico.

“You need to be aware when you travel, that it’s not like home,” Carver said. “And if you’re a seasoned traveller, I think you try and always keep that in the back of your mind.”

The federal government’s travel advisory website states that there is no nationwide advisory for Mexico but warns that travellers should “exercise a high degree of caution” there due to high levels of “criminal activity.” It also mentions demonstrations, protests and occasional illegal roadblocks throughout the country as other possible deterrents.

For her part, Megan has posted several online reviews of the Riu Caribe Cancun resort to share her experience with other potential travellers.

“I don’t want it to happen again to anyone,” she said.

CTV News reached out to Riu Hotels and Resorts for a comment but has not heard back from them. The resort did, however, respond to one of Megan’s posts on the company’s Facebook page.

“Dear Megan, our customer care team informs us that they have received your complaint and they are now analyzing your case thoroughly due to the seriousness of the matter. You’ll receive an answer as soon as possible, thank you for your patience,” the post reads.

Meanwhile, Megan said she’s just trying to forget about the whole experience

“I keep thinking about it,” she said. “But I am trying not to.”

With a report from CTV Winnipeg’s Michelle Gerwing