Click HERE for a copy of Senator Collins’ opening statement
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Click HERE to read Mr. Martin’s official testimony.
Click HERE to watch Andy Martin’s testimony
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Washington, D.C.—A senior from Dresden, Maine, is currently incarcerated abroad as a result of a new, pernicious scam unveiled for the first time today at a Senate Aging Committee hearing. The hearing was led by U.S. Senator Susan Collins, the Chairman of the Committee. The hearing, titled, “Do You Know What Is in Your Suitcase? How Drug Traffickers Are Deceiving Seniors to Smuggle Contraband,” examined a horrific new scheme where global drug traffickers deceive seniors to unknowingly smuggle drugs across international borders. At the invitation of Chairman Collins, the victim’s son, Andy Martin, testified about his personal experience with this disturbing scam.
“The criminals who set this chain of events into motion are cruel, but also very, very clever,” said Senator Collins. “I cannot emphasize enough how important it is that seniors and their families become aware of these criminals’ techniques and take action to protect themselves and their loved ones from these heartless criminals.”
“The idea that my dad is now a convicted international drug smuggler is surreal as he had no prior criminal history,” said Andy Martin, the Maine victim’s son. “Before this conviction, my dad had never been charged with even a misdemeanor… Now my dad may very well spend the rest of his life in a European prison, ashamed and alone.”
Mr. Martin testified that several years ago his father was contacted by a young woman online who claimed she was from the United Kingdom. After emailing and calling Mr. Martin’s father over a period of several months, she asked him to travel to South America to pick up some real estate documents she needed. She claimed that she could not obtain a travel visa, so she purchased a plane ticket for him.
When Mr. Martin’s father arrived in South America, he was given two packages that appeared to contain books and was asked to bring them to Europe. Upon arriving in Europe, law enforcement officials discovered that the packages contained drugs and arrested Mr. Martin’s father. Although his father had no knowledge that the packages contained drugs, he was prosecuted by European authorities and is currently incarcerated overseas.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs Border Patrol have created a joint operation they have dubbed “Operation Cocoon” to work with U.S. and international law enforcement agencies to combat this scam. ICE has prevented at least 16 seniors from becoming victims. Foreign authorities have arrested 15 subjects affiliated with criminal organizations as a result of Operation Cocoon.