Victor Stemberger was unwilling to ignore emails inviting him to a multi-million dollar business opportunity, so he put himself forward as the perfect candidate for the job. And somehow it was, although for the wrong reasons.
This 76-year-old Virginia man, who according to his family has cognitive problems, accepted the offer and boasted of his credentials as “an experienced businessman who does what he says he will do, and executes it without problems, according to the plan. “
Apparently he followed the plan, but the execution was not flawless.
To this day, Stemberger is in a Spanish jail a year after entering the country with 2.4 kilos (more than 5 pounds) of cocaine expertly sewn in jackets inside a suitcase. His family claims that he did not know anything about the drug. Although Spanish authorities doubt it, the United States Department of Justice informed Spain that it believes Stemberger was tricked into acting as a drug courier for a West African criminal network, and asked for the evidence against him, according to the correspondence obtained. by The Associated Press.
Federal authorities have been warning for years about scams targeting older or mentally ill Americans – Stemberger suffered a major brain injury nearly 15 years ago – to turn them into mules. They convince them that they will receive payments if they travel or take other actions. In 2016, the Department of Homeland Security said that immigration and border authorities had intercepted more than 140 of those involuntary emails, some as young as 87, and that more than 30 are believed to remain in prison.
“One of the most common characteristics we find in these scams is that the older person normally lives alone, has lost their partner, and is alone,” said Susan Collins, a Republican senator from Maine, who chairs the Senate Committee on the Elderly and He helped secure the release of a Maine man imprisoned in Spain under circumstances similar to those of Stemberger.
Stemberger, who on July 5 will be serving a year in detention in Spain, will be tried next month in Madrid. Her son claimed that the only explanation for his father’s behavior is that “those criminals really connected with our father under the veil of what he thought was a legitimate business opportunity.”
“With his impaired mental abilities, he became the perfect victim of a crime syndicate like this,” said Vic Stemberger.