Saturday, December 24, 2011

Nightmare Overseas: the complete story

This deserves to be said about the story which I compiled over the past month, which I don't mind you reading. You deserve to know my persuasion on the material before you begin.

I want to say I understand my friend Johann putting himself danger; he wants to change his country for the better, to make it a place with racial blindness. His marvelous family is beside him. I don't doubt him for doing what's right for a moment.

Cecil Disharoon, Jr. 6701 words
December 24, 2011

“Americans Fight in an Overseas Nightmare”

We need the U.S. Embassy to politely ask the Attorney General’s office to expedite their decision on this situation, and prosecute this as a criminal offence. Here is my interview with Steve and Janel, and the man who put me in touch with them and asked me to investigate their story.

STEVE: For security reasons it is best not to broadcast our full names. I would not want our foes here, who I know have googled my name in the past, to come upon this. It could be dangerous for us as we are revealing truths about not only them, but this entire country as well. This is not to be taken lightly. One man in the government who was helping us was murdered some eight months back; not because he was helping us- few knew it-- but because he had stepped on the toes of others in the government. There is no freedom of speech here. Complaints about the government in any way can end up in your death. So we must be prudent. No exaggeration. So please just use “Steve” and “Janel.” I turn 55 this December 25th. Janel turned 40 this past May 27th.

We last lived in Colorado, though we spent a period of six months in Florida prior to departing for Sri Lanka. It should be noted I have traveled through or lived in nearly 40 countries, including Kenya, Morocco, Egypt, the latter during the first Gulf War, and never have I experienced the hate and racism as we experience it in this country.

We departed for Sri Lanka on December 8th, 2009, from JFK, after a four day and very pleasant time in northern NJ, where I grew up. Our planned three week stay, during which I was to be repaid the more than $40,000US owed to me, has turned into a two year, ongoing battle to recoup my monies lent to help the man now cheating us of all human decency, our freedom, two years of our life, and of course the money.

We refer to him as “Christopher,” the name I by which I knew him in Italy, when first he and his brother solicited my help to keep them from being deported from that country.

I met Christopher in March 1990. I had been traveling to Italy for extended periods of time since 1983, for I could speak Italian quite well, had a large circle of friends, both of which enabled me to help Christopher and his brother fight deportation, obtain their legal status, and find them a good paying job, house, car --- basically a new life.

Let me clarify the deal I entered into with Christopher Perera. He began calling me from Italy, 2008, while I was in Colorado taking care of my two 17 year old dogs. He would recount his risk of losing custody of his daughter if he lost the home he had purchased in Sri Lanka. I told him I had the money but as long as my dogs were alive I could not help him, they were my primary concern, for bidding even that I work as they needed, and I wanted to give them, my full attention in their last years. I did however lend him $3,000 in December 2008 so he could visit his daughter, then about 8 years old, in Sri Lanka for Christmas. My one dog, Bear, had died that November.
He would continue to call me about his dilemma, claiming his fear of losing custody of his daughter to his ex-wife if he lost the house he had purchased but was unable to make his payments. Knowing the value I put on being a good father, I now know this was just all part of his con. There was never any risk of losing custody of his daughter, nor, was he in any way interested in being a good father.

Eventually, when Bear’s sister Sad Eyes died, April 29, 2009, Christopher was calling me every day, now telling me his house would be lost if he could not pay it in full within ten days. He would lose not only the supposed 27,000 euro he already invested, but also custody of his daughter. He was distraught. I was in great grief over losing both my faithful companions of 17 years, Sad Eyes and Bear. I felt privileged to have had the money so I could freely care so well for them in their last years, and I felt it an honor to them to pass that gift to Christopher and help him save his house and thus custody of his daughter. The former, saving the house, was just a means for the latter, saving his custody of his daughter.

After discussing in detail the value of the house, which he claimed was purchased at 55,000 euro but had increased to 70,000 in the three years since he purchased it, a newly constructed home according to his specs, and receiving his assurance that, if necessary, he would sell it and buy a lesser expensive home in order to repay me, my assessed risk seemed safe. At the same time he assured me he could, after paying it off with the additional $35,000 he requested from me, added to the $3,000 he had borrowed earlier and claimed was in his bank, he could within one month mortgage it and wire all my monies to me. I eventually agreed based on the assessed risk and his promises, and his “I will never, never, never forget all the help you have given me these 20 years.” I trusted the wrong man.

Christopher had invited us to visit Sri Lanka, where we were to receive a warm welcome from all his family for all the years of help I had given them starting in 1990, in Italy, up to the lending of the money to save custody of daughter. But there was no warm greeting, the house was not ready for habitation, there was not even a kitchen sink. Just a coconut mattress bed. Literally. The yard was nothing but dirt, though he had stated it had been sodded, important to us as we were bringing our one year old dog, Rosie. Christopher was not even there to greet us when we arrived, and would not arrive until December 24th. We were struck with the thought: “Has he been lying to us about everything, never thinking we would actually come?” During the next two weeks we acquired the bare necessities to make the house livable, eg: small fridge, kitchen sink, stove oven, etc.

Upon his arrival I voiced my disillusionment with the conditions we arrived to. He apologized and then, as these people are pros at, recounted his sob story of leaving Italy with only 500 euro to his name, that his place of employment had cheated him, he had no job to return to nor could he, because his sister, co-custodian of his daughter was leaving for Australia, forcing him to remain in Sri Lanka or he would lose custody of his daughter to his ex wife. Also there was a legal issue getting the title to the house which prevented his mortgaging it to repay us. This was true. In this way he won our sympathy again, and our patience. Our planned three week stay now became indefinite, but he assured us it would not be more than 1-2 months.
We were actually giving him money, a little here and there supposedly for his daughter’s school needs and some other necessities. He never lived in the house with us, and we, at the time, had enough money to survive the stated 1-2 months time frame before he would be able to repay the full $40,000.

By March, however, we began seeing in him things contrary to the person I thought I knew in Italy. And little by little he became hostile to my questioning his efforts to keep his promises to us. In April, the title was freed from the legal hold up, but still he took no action to make arrangements to repay me. At this point I started investigating his real situation, and discovered he was not even qualified for a mortgage. Then his brother-in-law, at whose house Christopher was living with his daughter, started coming over to the house my money paid for, and in which Janel and I lived. He began hinting that Christopher was not to be trusted, and eventually stated plainly he had no intention to pay us.

Now we entered into the game of pretending to believe him while at the same time faced with the need to figure out how to secure our monies. Basically we needed to con the con man. On May 2nd, 2010, he signed a document assigning 100% rights to the house over to me, to sell as I saw fit. Unfortunately, that document is not binding here in Sri Lanka, something I’m sure he knew, though it had two signed witnesses, including his brother-in-law.

As soon as I found a buyer on June 1st, 2010, his true colors poured out with gusto. He threatened the buyers and they were scared off. He would do the same with five other subsequent buyers. This was the final break with him, and within two weeks he disappeared with his families help, doing so in order to avoid any legal action. Then in July, one of his family members filed a court action against me to prevent me from selling house. Our nightmare in this corrupt legal system had begun.

We arrived at JFK in New York with some $4,000 plus, all the money we had in the world. To our great shock, checking in to our Emirates flight they refused to let us fly with Rosie, our one year old dog, forcing us to a frenzied scramble to ship her via cargo. I had traveled with my Sad Eyes and Bear transatlantic perhaps a dozen times, always being simply an extra baggage charge, on our flight. Also, I had confirmed with three different reps at Emirates that this was also their policy for dogs. Yet, at JFK, it cost us, after bargaining, $950 to ship Rosie, who would arrive five days after us. So, we arrived to Sri Lanka with some $3,000. Not a problem, we thought, since Christopher promised he would have my $40,000 within two weeks after our arrival. Getting our Rosie out of the Sri Lankan airport however was another nightmare, as we spent 8 hours, had to pay three different bribes plus real costs, while she suffered in the cage once she saw us, not allowed to even go out for the bathroom.

As mentioned, we were helping him financially even after our arrival, due to his stated predicament, still considering him a friend and a human being in need. But, as time passed, we eventually ran out of money. We have never been “homeless” here as we are in possession of the house my loaned money paid for. But once our money ran out, we gradually became truly destitute. His family would not help. Once we went three days with no food, until, upon hearing of it, a man we call “Charlie,” owner of a small grocery store, gave us food to sustain us. Charlie is also the man who introduced us to Johann’s Mom, this some months later, and she immediately began helping us to survive.

Prior to that however, we received help from a man named Aldo in Italy. Hearing of our plight, he sent us 1,000 euro. I know him only through the internet, having met on an Italian poetry site. We also received help from Rosemary Harris, the actress in the Spider Man films, a friend of Janel’s. I have no family, nor can Janel’s help, or perhaps won’t. My 83 year old friend I call “Miss Jane” and her husband in Texas have helped, though they are of limited means. Most recently, they, along with Johann, have saved our car from auction, our only possession, and it is now safely in their yard in Amarillo. Though there are many villains in our story, there also a few true heroes. We live a day by day existence of survival.

I knew no one other than his brother-in-law Surrendra, the man referred to above, who I also helped in Italy in 1996-1998. His other brother who I took into my home in 1990, is presently in Italy. Stealing from other people. Another brother I helped the above mentioned time period is also in Italy, stealing from people.

Upon realizing Christopher’s intent had always been to cheat me, the first person I approached was Charlie, mentioned above. He had worked for VOA (Voice of America) for some years and is very fond of Americans, for what they taught him and the opportunity they gave him. He took me to the Pan Asian bank, and it was there I learned from the manager Christopher would never qualify for a loan to pay back my money. This confirmed he was lying to me. Charlie, one of the heroes in this story, told me if there was anything he could do to help, just ask. He is a man of limited means, barely making it in his little grocery because of all the corruption.
Further, upon hearing of Christopher’s plan to have me killed, I had only one choice but to “build a hedge around us.” This I did by making his intent and our plight known to all who would listen. Starting with a neighbor Upali, who had once given me a ride into town, he having spent 20 years in America.

Next I called the US Embassy, giving them all the names of people involved. I strategized and played on the peoples’ belief that the US Embassy will protect its citizens. Therefore, I made it known I was reporting the names of all threatening us.

When I was served papers regarding the petition filed by Christopher’s relative to prevent me from concluding the sale of the house, the lawyer did “disjoin” us from that injunction, but later sought to have us deported, obviously in cahoots with Christopher. Fortunately I had come to realize this and obtained a “Residence Visa” for court purposes which prevented accomplishment of their plan, though only for one year, to be renewed with each new court date. To their great anger, I, at this time, disconnected myself from this, my first attorney.

I have literally been to every court in Kurunegala, except the High Court. That means about seven different court rooms. The first being when I was served the above mentioned petition preventing me from selling the home. After Christopher was arrested on or about October 30, 2010, for cheating me, I have since been in what is called the “Magistrates Court.” We are awaiting decision by the Attorney General whether the case should be held in the High Court. I have been to court at least 10 times, but probably more. It is a nightmare each time. Cheating lawyers, stares of hate because I am white and a foreigner, demands of bribes for papers I need for visa renewals each time, which I refuse to pay and makes me even more hated. But I stand my ground.

Sidebar: Sri Lankans step up to help

Interview with Aunty Raju. Her full name is :- Rajalakhsmi Subramaninum.

Question :- How did you hear about Steven and Janel's situation?

A:- I heard about Steve and Janel from a lady named Manel Fernando from Bathalagoda (thats a twon about 15Kms from Kurunegala).

Q :- What did she tell you about S&J?

A :- I was told by Manel that they had lost their life's savings. They had lent it to a Sri Lankan parent to help him regain custody of his daughter. And that this so called parent had lied to S&J and was not returning the loan. And that they were being fed (Daily) By the late Namal Gamage (Namal was the owner of a restaraunt called The Paramount in Kurunegala).

Q :- How did you meet S&J?

A :- When I heard their tale I went over their house in Millenium City to confirm their story.

Q :- How long ago was this? A :- About 9 months ago.

Q :- When you went over there what did you discover?

A :- Well the first thing I noticed was that except for two broken down chairs they had no furniture. They were sleeping on a bare mattress on the floor, no electricity and that eventhough the dogs were well fed the humans were malnourished.

Q :- What did you do then?
A :- I went to the store and purchased food and provisions on their behalf. Donated a bunch of old clothes. Paid for the dogs veternary care needs and invited them for a meal at my place regurarly. And spread the word around.

Q :- What motivates you to help them?

A :- They are guests in our country and they have been lied to, threatened, intimidated and taken advantage of and left destitute. What if it was me or my grandchildren this happened too. Plus I want them to realize that not all Sri Lankans are cheats, liars and racists.
They do not have the bare neccesities that they need to survive.

Q:- Do you think their situation is genuine?

A :- (Witha surprised look on her face.) Why else do you think they are staying here with no food, no electricity, malnourished and putting up with all this mistreatment.

Q :- Why do you think the that only a few of the people in this so called Buddhist land are allowing such a thing to take place.

A :- The majority of the people in Sri Lanka were not raised the way were. We were brought up to res[ppect every one equally. While the present group of people were raised influenced by the misinformation of the nationalistic regimes. They belive that all forigners are rich. And they prey on people from abroad without consience.

Q :- Have you been threatened by anybody for helping them.

A :- My late daughter's husbands brother is well connected with the Rajapakses. So no one will threaten me.

Interview with Leilani Balasuriya

Question :- How did you hear about Steven and Janel's situation?

I was shoppin at the "City Grocery" at the same time as Steve and I asked the Manager Denzi (A.K.A Charlie) about Steve. Denzie said that Steve was an American who was stuck in Sri Lanka because he head tried to help a Sri lankan and was cheated. As I walked out of the store I ran into my old classmate Gunnie. While I was talking to Gunnie he mentioned Steves predicament to me in detail and introduced me to Steve.

Then I asked Steve if he would be offended if I offered him some money. Steve said "I have no choice but to accept your money because of my situation". Afterwards I ran into Steve a few times. Then about 3 weeks later Raju mentioned their situation to me and I informed her that I was already aware of their situation and we agreed to help pay for their groceries. The day after Raju and I discussed this situation we bought a bunch of groceries and went over to their place.

Q :- How long ago was this? A :- About 7 months ago.

Q :- When you went over there what did you discover?

The place was bare except for two chairs and two lovely friendly dogs.

Q :- What did you do then?

I went to the "City Grocery" and spoke to the manager and he agreed to pay for 1/3 of their groceries and Raju and I agreed to pay for the remaining 2/3

Q :- What motivates you to help them?
I am ashamed that they are being treated like this. I am also sad that the guy who cheated them claims to be a Catholic.

Q:- Do you think their situation is genuine?

Why else would they be living like this and why would they be here is Kurunegala instead of living in America or Colombo.

Q :- Why do you think the that only a few of the people in this so called Buddhistland are allowing such a thing to take place.

Most of them dont speak English and they have been told by people they respect that all forigners are bad, corrupt and immoral. They have been bought up to belive that the Sri Lankan way is the right way.

Q :- Have you been threatened by anybody for helping them?

No one has threatened me directly. But there was a White Van with out nuber plates parked outside my house at night for several days and every time I walked up to it, they would speed away and be back about 1/2 an hour later

Q :- Anything else you want to say about this situation?

They do not have the bare neccesities that they need to survive.
Q :- What motivates you to help them?

A :- They are guests in our country and they have been lied to, threatened, intimidated and taken advantage of and left destitute. What if it was me or my grandchildren this happened too. plus I want them to realize that not all Sri Lankans are cheats, liars and racists.

His wife, Janel:
I don’t think you can understand what it means to us that someone else out there cares and actually took the time to try and get our story out there. It has been such a long, horrible road for us, and for so long we have tried many ways to get our story to any ears that would care to listen. I have tried a ton of news websites, newspapers, organizations, and it all comes to nothing.
Even though we have signed all the papers the Embassy said were needed, they let neither us or anyone else have access to our file. They only tell us that as long as we give up our dogs, we can take the repat loan. They have actually been rude to us, as Steve used to call them every month, and then I started calling, and at no time would they allow us to actually speak to our Ambassador. “
In the meantime, Steve and I have suffered beyond what we can actually write down. Apart from the sexual molestations with me personally, one sent directly from the man stealing our money, we have lived without food, and worried how to feed our beloved dogs. This was before Johann and his mother came into the picture. My Steve has lost so much weight, he looks like a holocost victim. We have found people along the way who have lured us in by words of help, only to find ourselves being cheated again and again. To be in desperate situation, makes you want to believe words of relief that come your way. This society is really so good at playing "the good person", to get into your good graces and then cheat you however they can. To say the least, we do feel like fools in many ways, but the "con job" is a learned practice in this country, and if we stopped ever believing anyone, we would not now have Johann in our lives.
Giving up our dogs is not an option ever for us; we will die here first.
It gave us a little hope that maybe someone out there will care about our story. When we focus on the corruption here, it falls on deaf ears. When we focus on actual threats to our lives, the same, and even, a topic near and dear to our hearts- the horrible fate of thousands of street dogs here, doomed to die from disease, starvation, and never know the human touch or love that could await them, as we have given our little Runty. Or that my poor Rosie, from the US has spent half of her life now stuck in a yard with no walks now for almost two years, because she’s in danger of airborne diseases.
Our battle now has become a mental one, as we have the help of Johann and his mother to keep us from starving.

Johann Balasuriya, resident of Sri Lanka, explains.
See, the con man assumed that Steve would just leave after 3 weeks.
This is quite a common scam. The Immigration dept has about 120 files-- each with about 25 such cases of either a Kind American, Brit, Aussie, European---loaning money to a Sri Lankan to get out of a tough spot, then promising payment, inviting said foreigner to Sri Lanka to be treated like a king.
When the guy(s) get here, they are treated like dirt, and bullied into leaving after a few months.
Steve and a few other brave souls are the ones who are taking a stance.

It is quite a common ruse. There are a lot of people here with western friends. But if you pay attention 80% the westerners pay for everything and get ripped off. See, if you are a foreigner taking legal action, they have to go to the immigration dept with copies of all documents and register; then they get their visas renewed. What we hope is that once Steve’s matter is resolved, we can get the western governments to pressure ours to take a look at these files and do something about these situations.
It is happening a lot. We want the US state dept to include Sri Lanka on their travel advisory.

In most areas of Colombo it’s different (not prejudiced). In Galle there is an entire community of westerners who have banded together to prevent other westerners from getting ripped off.

“As it stands,” says Balasuriya, “in court Rekawa can prove Perrera defrauded Steve and Janel, with no intention of paying Steve back. Rekawa can also prove that Ceylico does not want Christopher in their housing scheme because of his bad character.”
Besides being an Ambassador, Ariya B Rekawa. was also the Mayor of Kurunegala for 11 years. He is also the last of the progressive non nationalist politicians in Sri Lanka.
Balasuriya writes:
“I could not get my lawyers (Arith and Shamini Wettawe ) to represent Steve because the con man and his supporter in the govt has slandered and character assassinated Steve and Janel. They had told most of the lawyers that this was a tax evasion scam. And that Steve and Janel were swimming naked in a pool. The con man’s protector had sent some thugs to intimidate Steve and Janel one day. But for some reason (most probably Steve and Janel had some company over), instead of going to Steve’s house they had gone to the swimming pool at Millennium city (That's the housing complex where the house is located) and defecated in the pool and told security to blame Steve and Janel or else...... so Arith refused to represent them.”

As for the Tax evasion scam, it is a scam perpetrated by the government of Sri Lanka. The scam is as follows:-

If a 100% Sri Lankan company buys property in Sri Lanka the land registry fees and taxes come to about 8%( If you include the bribes it comes to about 12%). If a private individual (A Sri Lankan citizen such as myself) buys property the deed fees and taxes (all paid to the land registry office is 15% (including the bribes it comes to 25%). If a Non Sri Lankan citizen buys property in Sri Lanka, the deed fees and taxes come to 100% + 75% in bribes the foreign individual ends up paying 175%.

So if a foreigner wants to buy land a con man will appear and say to them "Sir/Madam I am a Singhala Buddhist and our religion prohibits us from cheating. So in order to save money why don’t you register the land in my name and save on taxes". If the foreign individual buys into this and registers the property in the Sri Lankans name. The Sri Lankan will wait for the foreigner to develop the property and then afterwards will try to intimidate the foreigner into vacating the land or will evict the foreigner from the property using a lawyer.
Myself, my Mother, Charlie, Aunt Raju and my Moms House wife's association are paying and will pay all expenses. We just need to get the US Embassy to see that justice is done. If the United National party were in power, none of this would have taken place.
When asked about their present status, Steve replied:
On May 13, 2012, it will be three years since I loaned Christopher the $35,000 to pay off his house and save custody of his daughter. On December 29, 2011, it will be three years since I lent him the $3,000, supposedly to visit his daughter.
I finally have an attorney of integrity, thanks to Johann, his Mom, and a man Namal now dead, who I believe was also murdered. Last week Christopher, urged by a man in the government and close to the president of Sri Lanka who protects Christopher, had agreed to a settlement. This government man whose name I cannot now mention for the danger of doing so, wants this over as I have involved him, and I do not take his threats to me lightly. It could cost me my life, but he prefers to end it. But after agreeing to a settlement, the news today via Johann is Christopher is not cooperating. This is a country where one can hire someone for $500 to kill someone. We must be prudent without cowering down to these human and corrupt monsters. I will not do other than be prudent. Present status: unknown. But Johann is a faithful help in this nightmare. And his mother is a formidable woman. Will we survive? I do not know. We will never surrender to corruption.
Janel writes about the latest of many fruitless meetings with Perera.
“He says he will sell the house and give us bare minimum of what we lent, which we will of course take compared the nothing that is our alternative with no way of getting out of here with the dogs. Don’t put much hope in this new development as it has been said so many times before, but it is all we have right now.
We are in real trouble without a miracle. Perera’s supposed to meet our lawyer today, but we don’t believe he will even show up, a common thing here. So put out some waves of hope for us. We both truly think it may just be we have to die here, because we just cannot leave our dogs to this horrible place. There would be no life worth living to know we saved ours, for theirs, and they are truly the one joyful thing this life has to offer right now. They are life to us.
We can’t take the re-pat tickets because they won’t take our dogs, That has been the big fight for us with them, begging to speak to the Ambassador and Colorado congressman to ask for an exception of this to be done. Steve has asked if he can give up his ticket for them, and ‘absolutely no’ is the only answer we get, and we’re never allowed to speak to the Ambassador.

The first time we got a list of Embassy-recommended lawyers was about a year ago, and when calling two of them, one never got back to us and the other just spoke of his fees and that it was a hard case to prove and would cost alot him being in Colombo and we had no money to pursue things with him, who did not paint a good picture anyway. To be honest, one of the lawyers on the list happened to be one Johann had us talk to recently, and really we were not given any hope and told how much it would all cost, to bring his associate down from Colombo; we just could not afford to do this.

We have not contacted the lawyers from the list recently, due to the futility of our efforts with Rekawa. Each time, we thought we had a settlement, only to have Perera disappear with his promises to follow through with what he promised in lets sell the house and end this. Now Rewaka feels like he has been treated like a ping pong with this guy, so we are really looking at no hope right now. Our court case on Jan. 12 will just be another appearance where we get another court date, and this can go on for years. We have no rights here, and all the Embassy has said they can do for us, is if we are in jail, they will make sure we are treated the same as any other locals in jail. That is IT!
Now that I do not have this job, we cannot last through the court dates. It is a miracle we have struggled and survived these two years, but it seems our fight is lost. Everyone says we cannot win in a court battle and to get out, but getting out is exactly what we have been trying to do by fighting, but it takes money to get out. We are willing to arrive penniless and start over, and yes, would like to have Steve come back and fight this man whole stole two years of our lives along with our money, but we have to get home first, fight where we have rights. I was not even paid my salary on the teaching job. It WAS a real college associated with a Canadian University, but once the director from Canada left, this scammer, the owner of the school, another Perera by the way, told the students they can’t sit for classes anymore until they pay all the money due, and once he had $6000.00-$8000.00 from each of the students, about 78 of them, he said they no longer had to continue classes, that he was sending their applications to Canada, for which they all got rejection letters, and all hell started breaking lose, and he kept making promises that never came to be, and now he has disappeared, with no word to the teachers or our salaries, and we have come to know this is a common scam here in SL. I have students calling me in tears, as they traveled far to go there, paid alot of money, sold property, gave us jobs, sold gold and got loans and are distraught. It is a scam I would like to expose on their behalves once I am in safe grounds on US soil, IF we ever get there, but here I am powerless and in danger to do anything.

So, without that income, we now know we can’t last here. It is a fight for justice we feel worthy of fighting, and Steve does want to come back and see him in jail, and get our lost money, but right now, we dont know how to get out with our dogs. We still need a cage for Runty, and know the airlines that will transport them as extra baggage on the same flight we are on, Sending them separately as cargo would cost more than tickets cost for Steve and I.

What have we learned? SO many things, about ourselves, our strengths and our weaknesses. Our ability to survjive, and what it means to appreciate a country like America, and what the third world is all about. Can we say we will never try to help someone again? How can we, when people have helped us, and it is just not our nature to turn a blind eye to someone in need.

.If we got out, we have a few people we would like to help here, who live in misery and know what most of the country is like. The main population, incredibly, is one that looks for a way to cheat the other guy. The corruption and real danger that exists here has changed us forever. We think about immigration, and how even to this day, the rat has brothers working in Italy thanks to Steve all those years ago, and how the rat has stolen money from Italian people as well, and can come back to his country and find a safe haven. He knows how things work here, how to bribe and use his friend in the government to even make it possible he does not have to show for his bail. We have also learned that we are willing to die for what is right, and though people may find it absurd that we won’t leave our dogs but they are children to us and THEY would suffer. We would have to kill them, as there is no place for them here, and even if there was, they would suffer more than our minds and hearts can bear.

We have learned that helping someone can turn into disaster. Steve believed well-told lies, researched the house and was told he would have the money back within one month, either with a loan against the house, or he would sell it for a cheaper one and the value we were told would more than give us our money back. We’ve learned to be careful.
We want to write about all we have been through, and warn other people what can await them in a third world country, especially this one. If we do get out somehow, the story continues, as to how we will have to start over in life and build a life again in the US. We just want a little place where our dogs are happy and free, where I can find a nursing job and Steve can write. And yes, we want to continue to fight this injustice, but as Steve puts it, in some battles you have to know when to retreat and re-group and live to fight another day.
Finally, Janel writes:
It is Steve’s birthday Christmas Day, and Johann and his mother found a turkey! They have invited us to share part of the day with them, so we look at small little blessings that come our way. On that train of thought, one more thing we have learned through all of this, is that we have had some miracles, like getting electricity back, not because of money, but the promise of a house sale that never happened, or that our car was saved in the US by our friends in Texas and Johann.
Each and every time we have been down to zero money, somehow something has come through for us, like the teaching job just when we needed it. We call it Gods protection over us, and don’t know how this story will end, but would like to hope somehow that He has not kept us alive all this time through all this struggle to see us die here.
I hope some of your readers out there will know this is not a scam or lies, but a real life struggle for our lives and for our dogs, all because we helped someone who played on the sympathies he knew would get him the money he never intended to return.
Thanks again Cecil, for all your time and effort in this. One man out there, taking on our story! We have been looking for that for a long time, and so that in itself is another miracle for us. Truly, we appreciate your efforts. Merry Christmas to you and your wife.

Very good news: I need to update this story now...they won their case this summer!!!!!!!!!

1 comment:

cease ill said...

When you read this, here is what my wife and I are talking about upon reflection:

1. What are these two people doing to their families, by staying there for ANY reason?
2. By insisting on being able to leave with their dogs, is telling their story an attempt to keep their "family" if you will together, or is this some suicidal urge on some level? That, to me, is a serious question.

Those two serious questions are at the heart of whether or not I should attempt to get editors to run this as a news story. I want your opinion because I am either all in behind promoting it or I won't for their own good. It could be their lesson needs to be to walk away, EVEN if they are right!

I see why fraud can be such a tough crime to stamp out: the story's almost never going to be entirely sympathetic, and justice should be considered, not just politics.