WASHINGTON (AP) — The family of a Virginia man who has been held in Spain for the last year on drug trafficking charges says he was an unwitting courier for a criminal syndicate.
The Justice Department is backing that conclusion. It told the Spanish government in a letter obtained by The Associated Press that there's no evidence 76-year-old Victor Stemberger knew that he was transporting cocaine to the country at the time of his arrest.
Today Stemberger sits in a Spanish jail, one year after flying into the country with 2.4 kilograms (more than 5 pounds) of cocaine expertly sewn into bubble jackets in a bag. His family says he knew nothing about the drugs. The Justice Department has advised Spain that it believes Stemberger was duped into acting as a drug mule for a West Africa criminal network, and has asked the country for evidence it’s gathered, according to correspondence obtained by The Associated Press.
Stemberger is set for trial in Madrid later this month. His family says he has not been the same since a brain injury nearly 15 years ago.
Federal officials have for years warned about scams that lure elderly Americans or those with diminished mental capacity.