Sunday, November 04, 2012

Romance Scam Victim Duped into Being a Drug Mule

A one-time Somerset Ward city council candidate is at his wit’s end over his mother’s year-long incarceration on drug charges in Peru. Don Fex says his mother, Norma, 59, was the victim of a romance scam. A U.K. man lured her to the South American country and duped her into being a drug mule, he says.

Now Fex says his mother is struggling with harsh jail conditions and he feels Canadian consular officials aren’t doing enough to get her back home. It was supposed to be a romantic getaway, but Norma’s boyfriend didn’t show up in Peru. The scammer claimed he couldn’t get a flight out and suggested they change plans so she could come right away to the U.K. says Fex, relating what his mother told him.

Her U.K. boyfriend told her he’d just have a business associate drop off some documents for her to take to him. He didn’t mention the 2.2 kilograms of cocaine sewn into the suitcase that held the documents.

“She’s five feet tall. She wears kitten sweaters,” Fex said of his mother. She’s never been in trouble with the law he said, adding she worked as a security guard in Windsor, Ont.

Peruvian lawyers said fighting the charges might prolong her incarceration. Norma co-operated and pleaded guilty, hoping to be extradited quickly after sentencing, said Fex. She was sentenced three months ago to more than seven years. Fex says his mother had little money when she arrived in Lima. She didn’t speak Spanish and found herself in a dingy hotel in a slum. Fex says his mother jumped at the chance to get out. He says she looked in the suitcase and found Spanish documents, but never thought of tearing open the suitcase lining. She was arrested at the airport.

His mother must pay for everything she needs in jail, even drinking water. He’s been sending money every month to cover her costs, but she’s recently been transferred to a prison two hours outside Lima. He says Canadian consular officials have told him they will now only be able to visit her once every three months.

Department of Foreign Affairs officials have told him extradition can’t begin until all of Norma’s fines are paid, but he doesn’t think the Canadian consulate has followed up on a request for a tally. A Department of Foreign Affairs spokesperson said in an email consular services are being provided to a Canadian citizen in Peru and consular officials remain in close contact with local authorities, “and with the citizen’s family.”

Fex wants that contact to start yielding results more quickly. “It’s in their power now to speed things along,” he said.

Fex had no idea his mother was in Peru until he got an emergency call from his uncle.

The shock has worn off and now the anger has set in,” he said.

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