A woman embroiled in an online dating scam has ended up in Argentinian prison for two and a half years after accidentally smuggling drugs across international boarders.
And 59-year-old Sharon Armstrong from New Zealand recently revealed the details surrounding her imprisonment & the dating scam that led to it.
Around five years ago, Armstrong began online dating and one month in she met a man online and they both got along really well, talking every day for five and a half months.
Armstrong told news.com.au: “He talked about our future together. There were daily phone calls, emails, texts. When my computer was later analyzed they found more than 7,000 emails. But nothing visual.
“There was always an excuse for why he couldn’t Skype. Now I realize that for those 5.5 months I was being groomed very well through a number of tests to see if I could be trusted.”
The man, who Armstrong has chosen to keep anonymous for the safety of her friends and family, told her that he was a civil engineer and worked for a company that, to her, seemed legitimate.
He soon offered her a job working with him and in her excitement, agreed to travel to South America to collect the contract and return it to him in London.
Once in Buenos Aires, Armstrong was told by her online date’s colleagues to repack her belongings into a new suitcase that contained the contract.
On inspection, Armstrong realised that the contract was not in the bag, and when she asked why, was told that due to the need for high security, it had been sewn into the lining of the suitcase.
The 59-year-old was told she could check the lining if she wanted to, to make sure the contract was there, but she decided against it, saying she trusted the man she had fallen for.
At the airport, Armstrong checked her bag in and went through customs, but was later called to the gate and told by airport police that they had found a strange object in her bag.
At closer inspection, Armstrong realised that the bag she had been given contained three long packages filled with a white powder that tested positive for cocaine.
She was immediately arrested and spent 2.5 years in an Argentinian prison.
Armstrong said: “I was arrested in April 2011 and in February 2012 my case went before a judge. They found me guilty and they sentenced me to four years and 10 months.
“My lawyers believed me, but the judge didn’t. The judges would say: “You’re an articulate, intelligent woman with great family support. How could you be scammed?” That was so disheartening.”
Her case was appealed and after it became clear she had been scammed, Armstrong’s sentence was reduced and she was deported back to New Zealand.
During her time in the Argentinian prison, Armstrong said she met 60-70 other women who had all been through similar experiences.
And she has appealed to other users of online dating sites, saying: “If I had any advice it would be to listen to your gut. It’s hard because when you have those rose-coloured glasses on, you don’t want them shattered. But if something feels too good to be true, then it probably is.
“If you’ve been talking to someone online but you’ve never seen their face and they ask you for money, or to go overseas, just don’t.”