WASHINGTON, D.C. — Dozens of Americans are being held in foreign countries, guilty of international drug trafficking, but officials say none of them knew they were being used as drug mules.
Those Americans include four Georgians, three from around metro Atlanta.
Homeland Security officials briefed senators about the brazen global scheme on Wednesday.
Most of the victims were conned online to believe they’re meeting a love interest or picking up lottery winnings overseas. They take the trip and are given what they think is candy or a suitcase with hidden compartments to be given as gifts that are all filled with drugs.
“I was supposed to go to (the United Kingdom) to pick up some package. Go to Dubai and then from Dubai, go to Japan,” said Daniel Siebert, 79, who almost became a victim of the scheme.
Siebert, from Arizona, spoke to senators on Wednesday. He was stopped at the airport in Atlanta during the first stop of the trip when agents realized he was about to be used as a drug mule.
“I didn’t think anything of it. I’d never been to Dubai, so I wanted to go,” Siebert said.
Officials from the Department of Justice and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement testified that there have been 145 unsuspecting couriers arrested overseas.
“My father was arrested in Europe in July 2015 with nearly 2 kilograms of cocaine,” said Bryon Martin.
His dad was arrested in Spain, when custom agents discovered cocaine hidden in books.
“The idea that my dad is now a convicted international drug smuggler is surreal,” Martin said.
Foreign authorities have arrested 15 people who are believed to be affiliated with criminal organizations carrying out this scheme.