A Texas man's foreign drug trafficking trial has been delayed -- again.
The defendant, a businessman from the affluent community known as The Woodlands, will spend another month in a Dominican jail under deplorable conditions before he even gets to trial, despite efforts by congressmen, embassy officials and local attorneys to secure his release.
His story could serve as a cautionary tale for the unwary. The Texas native had a profitable business ferrying diesel to areas where it was scarce in the Caribbean, but eventually leased it to the son of another businessman that was well-known in the fuel-trading industry.
When the Texas man was suddenly notified by a shipping agent from the Dominican Republic that his boat was being inspected, he got a flight to Santo Domingo in order to be there during the inspection. It wasn't until he arrived that he found out that nearly 1,000 kilos of cocaine and three kilos of heroin had been discovered on the boat and his renter was on the run. The Texan, however, was arrested on charges of international drug trafficking before he could return home.
Authorities say that the missing man organized the drug trafficking, but the boat's owner was responsible for recruiting the crew members for the drug runs. Authorities also claim that the boat's owner was kept informed of the drug activities and the boat's location by satellite phone.
His lawyer, friends and family all insist that the Texan had no knowledge of the operation -- and no reason to suspect that the son of a legitimate businessman in his own industry would use the boat to smuggle drugs.
The United States does have an extradition treaty with the Dominican Republic, but authorities there may have found it difficult to get the boat's owner extradited with the little evidence that they have. That explains the ruse they used to get him into the country. Now he has to fight for his freedom under a strange legal system with a legal team that spans two countries.
It pays to investigate everyone, regardless of their background or family reputation, before you enter into a business relationship. Also, be cautious about entering into a foreign country if the reason you're contacted seems sudden. It's all-too-easy to get caught up in something like this if you aren't wary.
Source: Chron, "Trial in Dominican Republic for Woodlands man delayed again," Andrew Kragie, March 22, 2017