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A Canadian grandmother’s journey from romance scam victim to unwitting drug mule | #DatingScams | #LoveScams | #RomanceScans


Published Oct. 7, 2023 8:00 a.m. ET

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HONG KONG — An Ontario woman who spent nearly nine months in a Hong Kong prison on drug smuggling charges has been unexpectedly released.

Suzana Thayer’s case was dropped shortly after W5’s investigation, ‘The Cocaine Buttons,’ documented her ordeal. Thayer told W5, “I thought I would spend the rest of my life in jail and die there. I’m happy that I can sit here today.”

This is a bewildering tale of love, deception and international intrigue. It landed in my inbox last year when her desperate daughter, Angela, reached out for help. And it was a middle-of-the-night text message from a prison chaplain in Hong Kong that signaled the end of the saga.

The story began as an investigation into a romance scam with a wild twist. Bilked out of more than $200,000 by a scammer, Suzana’s search for love took her from the world of online dating to an all-expenses-paid trip to Ethiopia to meet the ‘man of her dreams’ — and eventually to a Hong Kong prison cell after customs agents discovered cocaine hidden inside buttons on clothing stuffed into her suitcase.

Suzana has always maintained her innocence. The Barrie, Ont. woman says the clothing was a gift from the man who had paid for her tickets to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The man never showed up but had the “gifts” delivered to her and then told her he would meet her in Hong Kong instead. When she landed at the Hong Kong airport, customs agents discovered the cocaine.

Thayer was arrested and had a hood thrown over her head before being taken to a maximum security women’s prison. She says, “I felt like a murderer. I wanted to collapse. And I think they literally held me up because my legs just turned to jelly. I couldn’t believe it.”

Despite W5’s repeated requests, authorities in Ethiopia have not attempted to investigate the man who delivered the cocaine-filled clothing.

When W5 first posted “The Cocaine Buttons” online, millions of people viewed it, including department of justice officials in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong lawyer Michael Arthur, who had been assisting Thayer in her plight, told me, “All I can conclude is that they watched your program. It’s highly unusual for them to drop a case. But I think it put pressure on them.”

In W5’s new one-hour documentary, ‘Prisoner 14000’ (watch in our video player above), we reveal disturbing new details obtained from one of the interrogation sessions at the airport.

We have obtained videotape of the interrogation video in which Suzana accuses authorities of denying her a lawyer and coercing her into signing documents. (Watch the full interrogation here or in our video player at the top of this article).

After an emotional reunion with her family at Toronto’s Pearson Airport, Suzana Thayer says she’s done with online dating, but hasn’t given up on the prospect of finding true love, saying ‘You don’t have anything if you don’t have love.'”

W5 airs in a new timeslot Friday at 10 p.m. (9 p.m. central time). Click here to watch ‘The Cocaine Buttons,’ and watch the latest documentary ‘Prisoner 14000’ in our video player at the top of this article



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