It was such an implausible story. How did a grandmother of six from Barrie, Ont. get caught up in an international scheme that ended with her behind bars, potentially for the rest of her life?
The short answer is: loneliness, naivete and a desire for love. The long answer is more complicated.
Five years after she became a widow, 64-year-old Suzana decided to try to find love online. She was flattered by all of the attention she received. She quickly fell in love with a man who, over the course of a few months, drained her of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
They never met in person.
Her friends and family believe that same man then re-entered her on-line life, using a new name and a new photo. But instead of trying to get money from her, this time he had another plan.
He paid for her to fly to Ethiopia, ostensibly to meet him. But he never showed. So he had some friends drop off presents: new clothing and a new suitcase. He then bought her a ticket to meet him in Hong Kong, where she now sits behind bars.
It turns out those gifts were loaded with cocaine inside the buttons of the clothes.
Our investigation, “The Cocaine Buttons,” spans from Canada to Ethiopia and Hong Kong where lawyer Michael Arthur says Suzana’s only hope is to prove that she was caught up in an international crime syndicate.
“There are pretty severe sentences here. She is looking at serious jail time,” he told W5.
Her case isn’t expected to even go to trial for another two years. In the meantime, Suzana only gets one 10-minute phone call a month.