‘I thought I would spend the rest of my life in jail,’ cries grandma tricked into becoming a drug mule by online message | #DatingScams | #LoveScams | #RomanceScans

A GRANDMOTHER has told how she was tricked into becoming a drug mule after traveling thousands of miles for love.

Suzana Thayer was forced to endure nine grueling months in a Hong Kong prison after being detained on drug smuggling charges while on her way to meet the “man of her dreams” in Ethiopia.

Suzana Thayer spent nine months in a Hong Kong prison after being accused of smuggling drugsCredit: W5
She said she was tricked into bringing the drugs into Hong Kong after falling for a romance scamCredit: W5

“I thought I would spend the rest of my life in jail and die there,” Thayer, who’s from Ontario, Canada, told CTV News in 2023.

“I’m happy that I can sit here today.”

It started when Thayer fell victim to a romance scam that saw her cheated out of more than $200,000.

As part of her search for love, Thayer booked an all-expenses-paid trip to Ethiopia to meet the “man of her dreams” who she had been speaking to online, said her daughter, Angela.

However, it ended with her being sent to prison after customs agents found cocaine hidden in buttons on clothing that was stuffed in her suitcase.

Thayer has always maintained her innocence, saying that the clothes were a gift from the man who paid for her tickets to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The man never showed up but he had the gifts delivered to Thayer and told her that he would meet her in Hong Kong.

But when she landed at the Hong Kong airport, she was met by customs agents who discovered the drugs.

Authorities threw a hood over her head and arrested Thayer, taking her to a maximum security women’s prison.

“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,” she said.

I came home to find a bulldozer ripping down my home after 30 years of paying a mortgage – it was sold behind my back

In her interrogation, Thayer accused authorities of denying her a lawyer and coercing her into admitting guilt.

“They wore me down three days prior to the interrogation,” she said.

“I was in handcuffs for the three days, but was surprised they took them off for the video interrogation.”

While in prison, Thayer said she repeatedly asked to speak with the Canadian consulate in Hong Kong, however, she was denied.

She claimed that the medications she needed for her heart problems were also withheld.

“At one point when they were interrogating me, just before they took me to a hospital, I looked at the interrogator and said ‘this is torture’. He literally smiled at me and said ‘yes it is.’

Cyber expert’s advice on spotting a romance scam

A cyber expert with knowledge of romance scams spoke to The U.S. Sun and warned users of red flags to look out for. Roger Grimes, a defense evangelist at cyber-firm KnowBe4, listed 8 main questions to ask yourself:

  • Is the person trying to move you off the dating site to an unmonitored app?
  • Are they asking lots of questions before revealing info about themselves? This could be a bid to establish common ground and build trust.
  • Are they avoiding phone calls and video chats and coming up with excuses?
  • Do they say they travel a lot or that they’re not in the same country? This is often a lucrative part of the scam as they will need money.
  • Have they said they are traveling on a certain day and something unforeseen happens, so they need money to get there?
  • Do they ask for deep, dark secrets, or incriminating or nude photos? This could be used for blackmail further down the line.
  • Have they said they have been scammed before? This is sometimes a ploy to build trust and convince you that they’re not a scammer.
  • Do they have a sob story? Like their spouse died suddenly or left unfairly? Or they’ve been left with kids or massive bills to pay?

Read more here.

“It was demeaning and cruel,” said Thayer. “You just want to crawl in a corner and cry, and that’s basically what I did. I just cowered in a corner.”

After CTV reported on the story officials in the Department of Justice in Hong Kong were made aware of Thayer’s situation.

“All I can conclude is that they watched your program,” said Michael Arthur, Thayer’s lawyer.

“It’s highly unusual for them to drop a case. But I think it put pressure on them.”

She was eventually reunited with her family at the Pearson Airport in Toronto.

Thayer said she’s done with online dating but is still hoping to find true love.

“You don’t have anything if you don’t have love,” she said.

Thayer has since been reunited with her daughter, AngelaCredit: W5
She says she’ll no longer date onlineCredit: W5

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