Monday, August 13, 2012
A Cautionary Tale
My darling girl, Nicky and her gorgeous son Max, left early in the morning to go back home to that place in far east Canada. I was feeling a little bluesy when the phone rang about noon, but had no idea that my life as I know it was about to change in the next few minutes.
A man was on the telephone and ascertained that he was talking to the correct person. I assured him that he was. This man then told me his name was Bruce Goodall and that he was a field agent for the DEA. I made him repeat that part, and replied "Okay, Mr. Goodall, what can I do for you?" At first I thought it might be a prank call, but within the next couple of minutes, I realized it was not.
Mr. Goodall told me I was being investigated because of my relationship with overseas pharmacy companies. I was speechless. I tried to interrupt him to say that I had no idea what he might be talking about. He then asked me "Okay, Linda, then where are you getting your weight loss medication and your Xanax?" Now I was really confused as I take neither drugs for weight loss or for anxiety, although I could probably have used both at this particular time. This guy rambled on to me in a very hostile and threatening manner until I finally said, "Wait a minute! About 5 years ago, I got a solicitation for Retin A eye cream. I think it was from a Canadian Company and I ordered it on the internet."
Mr. Goodall asked me if I knew that Retin A was a controlled drug in the US? ("I may have known that, but I'm not sure: I just knew it was cheap compared to a visit to a skin doctor to get an order for it. I assumed it was legal in Canada.", I responded.) Mr. Goodall then asked if my husband knew that I had a close relationship with foreign pharmacies and drug dealers, and I told him I wasn't sure. I may have told him I ordered the eye cream, but it was a long time ago. Mr. Goodall told me that I would have to go to trial and that he had agents two blocks away from me ready to come and pick me up. He also said that the company I had ordered the Retin A from was importing heroin and meth into the United States. My prison sentence would be between 15 and 20 years if I went to trial and was found guilty.
By this time, I was shaking. Goodall then told me that there might be a way out of this mess for me if I was interested. (Of course I was interested. Orange is not my color!) I'm making light of this now, but he actually had me scared. Mr. Goodall told me to hold on for a moment and he would connect me with his boss, who was the head of the DEA in the area. I was ready to cooperate at that point and that's for sure!
The man who came on the phone told me his name was Rick something or the other. He said "We know you are not a drug dealer or even a problem drug user. We want to work with you to get you out of this mess. You made a mistake, that's all. I don't want to see you in prison, Linda." (I don't want to see me in prison either, Rick.) At least Rick was playing the role of good cop and then he began telling me something about working this out with me paying a fine and it would all go away.
"What kind of a fine?" I asked. Rick replied that he really wasn't sure, but it would be in the neighborhood of $5,000 to $10,000, and that this would have to be taken care of immediately. Okay, I said, but wondering where I would lay hands on the money immediately. The call got cut off and I was left there with the phone in my hand stark raving terrified.
Then something came over me that made me stop panic mode and start thinking. Wait a moment. I didn't think what I did was illegal in the first place. In the second place, who ever went to prison for 20 years for buying a tube of eye cream from Canada? Also, since when does the DEA ask you for money to make it all "go away"? There was something fishy going on.
Rick called back several minutes later. He said that he had been working on the details of fixing the situation for me. He then asked me if I was working on my part of it. I responded "And what would that be, Rick?" and he blustered "putting together the money so that you can wire transfer it before the close of business today". I replied that I was going to telephone my attorney and that until I had legal counsel, I would not be giving money to anyone. Rick, (slightly hysterical now), replied "Don't contact an attorney! Don't you see that would be a deal breaker! I'm trying my hardest to help you out here."
I calmly asked for his phone number and told him I would get back to him after I spoke with my lawyer. He hung up.
I did telephone the DEA local office and they assured me that this was an attempt at extortion. They took a report and assured me that nobody from the DEA would make such a call. Further, there are a list of drugs that cannot be imported from overseas, but eye cream was definitely not on that list.
I felt pretty stupid to have been taken in by such a wild tale, but these people were actually so intimidating that I lost my sense of judgement. I shudder to think that some people may not have been so lucky.
From now on if a person in law enforcement even asks me what time it is, I'm going to request that he or she refer that question to my lawyer.