Retired pastor recounts online scam that landed him in Spanish prison
10/11/2016 2:51 pm PDT
If it wasn't for Crime Watch Daily, this gentle old former pastor would be spending his golden years rotting in a filthy foreign prison.
Bryon Martin was sentenced to six years in a Spanish penitentiary for drug-smuggling.
"I'm 77. Six years would make me 80s," said Martin. "I just felt that that I was going to die in prison. I was convinced of it."
Crime Watch Daily first brought you Bryon's chilling story in June. His much younger online girlfriend duped him into becoming a drug mule.
Now, in an exclusive interview, the retired pastor reveals what it was like in his prison purgatory.
"I was never given a single piece of paper in English, so I didn't know what I was being accused of," said Martin. "I thought I was in a prison within a prison, because I could communicate with almost no one."
Bryon Martin was lonely, looking for love -- but in all the wrong places. He fell for a young struggling artist from the U.K. who called herself "Joy," a sweet-talking blonde in search of a "sugar daddy."
"There was a big age discrepancy. It wasn't a realistic romance, it was just communications," said Martin.
Communications that would probably shock his flock of parishioners: Sinful pictures, and endless requests for money. Martin sent her wads of cash, but never consummated their cyber-seduction.
"Never met her," said Martin. "She sent me pictures, but again, it could have been anyone's picture."
When he married another woman, he says he cut off the sexy talk with Joy. But he says he had promised he'd help her handle a business matter, a promise he was duty-bound to honor.
"I had promised this woman three years earlier I would do this for her," said Martin.
So Martin grabs his passport flies from his home in Maine to Lima, Peru, and picks up what he believed were legal documents.
"I thought it was real estate papers. Her parents had died, owned, supposedly, lots of real estate in Quito, Ecuador," said Martin. "I thought it was microfilm. Drugs never entered my mind."
From Peru, Bryon Martin was supposed to fly to Europe with the package. As he waited in the Madrid airport to change planes, the scam was about to unravel.
"They put my stuff on the conveyor belt and I saw funny looks on their faces, and they brought a policeman over and they opened it and saw that it was a hollowed-out book," said Martin. "There was 1.8 kilos of cocaine, high quality."
That's nearly four pounds of cocaine, a street value estimated in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Bryon Martin is arrested. The U.S. Embassy notifies Martin's son, Andy.
"I was shocked. At first I thought they had the wrong number, or it was joke or whatever, and then they said 'No, he's actually in prison for smuggling cocaine,'" said Andy Martin.
Bryon, terrified and confused, cops a plea deal and gets six years and one day in a prison outside Madrid.
"It was such a violation of my moral character because as a retired pastor, drugs is one of the things I preached against," said Bryon Martin. "I did a stupid thing because I wanted to believe, I guess."
Martin's distraught family called U.S. Senator Susan Collins from Maine for help. Collins tells Crime Watch Daily there are at least 145 American citizens who are victims of scams, like Bryon Martin, and 30 of them are in overseas prisons.
"They're told they're just transporting a suitcase, a box of documents," said Collins (R-Maine).
Senator Collins asked Secretary Of State John Kerry to use his clout with Spanish authorities and got Bryon Martin an early release. After 11 months behind bars, Martin was back on U.S. soil.
Andy Martin and his wife Lisa now credit Crime Watch Daily's coverage for helping their 77-year-old father find freedom.
"I sent a copy of the video to the embassy in Madrid and his attorney, and I think definitely that was one of the catalysts to help get him out," said Andy.
Bryon Martin is now enjoying sweet freedom with his family. He says he learned a hard lesson: He'll never again go looking for romance online.
"I still got scammed, so I say be careful," said Bryon Martin. "If it's too good to be true, like they always say, it probably is too good to be true."
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