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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Big Fraud in the Far Abroad, Part IX: The Beginning of the End

True to the strategy laid out in his emails, AC turned in his resignation, saying he intended to go to Oregon, taking dogs and kids.

I, for one, felt glad to hear he would go. After over eighteen months of knowing about his and Long's activities, it had become increasingly difficult to keep up the charade of friendliness with this hail-fellow-well-met. Quite aside from the fact that he considered me an idiot, as stated in his emails, the investigation, I thought, by now had plenty of material to arrest and indict the thieving duo and more kept showing up: a new line of inquiry, for example, began developing re their possible involvement in an adoption racket with an ex-FSO, who had served with them in Hanoi and was now a Seattle-based lawyer.

Everyone who knew about the investigation was tired. There existed a poisonous atmosphere in the embassy; the bonds of trust that must exist with colleagues when serving far from the flagpole had become strained and frayed. I wanted the investigation to end and, desperately, to leave Colombo. As I told my wife, every time I had to deal with Long and AC I felt the need for an acid bath to remove the slime. Despite, nevertheless, my desire to leave, I remained concerned about the possible intelligence angle involving Long. We had discovered by certain means that she had a huge stack of pre-approved adoption certificates from the Vietnamese government. The adoptee's name remained blank but the rest of the document was signed, stamped, and ready to go. In my view, either Long had corrupt Vietnamese officials on her payroll, or had something else more sinister going on. I spoke to the FBI, but they and the prosecutors wanted to wrap things up. They had no interest in following up.

Life as a criminal in Colombo seemed also taking a toll on AC. One weird incident took place at the couple's house where we got invited to see AC put on a piano recital. Having taken piano lessons in a bid to seem more cultured, he now wanted to show off a bit. My wife found an excuse not to go, so I went alone. At this event there were several embassy people and some Sri Lankans. As usual, the food proved excellent, and poor little Zu had to put on her customary show. AC then sat down at the piano and began to play. He wasn't bad. Half way through a piece, however, he froze; he just starred at the musical score, his hands on the keys but still. This went on for a few painfully long moments, then AC put his chin on his chest and began sobbing, at first quietly and then quite loudly and uncontrollably. Long bolted from her chair, and said AC hadn't been feeling well and perhaps we should let him rest. We all quietly left. Neither AC nor Long ever mentioned this odd occurrence.

AC's planned departure presented a small but vexing problem. Who would give the farewell party? None who knew of the investigation wanted anything to do with it. Long forced the issue by inviting several of us to dinner at the new seafood buffet restaurant run by the Hilton hotel. None of us wanted to go, but in the end, did. It proved a forced affair with AC's buffoonish antics and jokes falling flat--nobody was in a laughing mood. It was just too much to listen to AC and Long tell us that now that AC was looking for a job they had told the kids to economize. One item on the restaurant menu had the ingredient "lemongrass." AC kept repeating that word to Long; they would smile at each other. "Lemongrass" was, of course, the name of the restaurant the two were setting up. We all had to pretend to be stupid.

The next day, the consular section gave a little good-bye party for AC. As DCM, I got asked to make a few comments. I don't remember exactly what I said, but it was bland, certainly not effusive about AC's qualities or full of words stating how much we would miss him. At the end of the party, AC put his big paw on my shoulder, and said, "Lew, man, I am not feeling the love. Where's the love, man? Where's the love?" He seemed genuinely nervous. I could muster only a wan smile and sip my warm soda water. Early the following morning, AC left post with a gaggle of kids, a couple of dogs, and a nanny.

Long, normally one tough cookie, became terrified at the prospect of living in the large house alone. She asked for more alarms, motion detectors, lights, and an increased frequency of patrols around her residence. She even wanted a guard permanently stationed there. I could not help but think that, perhaps, if she knew we had her under constant surveillance she might relax. It soon became clear why Long had become so fearful. Again, true to the scheme laid out in his emails, AC had scored a few more "home runs" before flying to Oregon. He had ripped off the Indian smuggling ring for an amount somewhere north of $50,000. He took the ring's money for visas, and departed without issuing said visas. Long, as we discovered via means I will not describe, was certain that Indian "mobsters" would come seeking revenge. She seemed to see a hit man lurking in every shadow and behind every tree. As far as I know, however, the Indians never showed up.

Long visited me in my office every day, often three or four times daily, as though a sixth sense alerted her that something was up. She told me that her promised assignment in New Zealand seemed to have hit a snag. She couldn't get a straight answer from personnel or from the office of BS of where that assignment stood. BS would not take or return her calls. Long asked me to see what I could discover. I told her to be patient: the Department worked in mysterious and slow ways. Long had become nervous and distracted; I often found her looking out the window, oblivious to the world around her.

DS and FBI investigators consulted with us on when to move against AC and Long. Prosecutors had given the signal that, finally, they thought they had enough to convict AC and Long and get them very long sentences, some fifteen to twenty years in a federal penitentiary. AC was in Oregon and Long in Colombo. There exists a twelve and half hour difference between the two time zones. FBI and DS wanted to effect the arrests simultaneously so nobody could get warned. We agreed that the feds would arrest AC at his home at 7 am Oregon time, making it 7:30 pm in Colombo. The agents wanted Long arrested on Embassy grounds. She would be placed on a commercial plane, escorted by DS and FBI to London, where she and her escorts would transfer to a flight to Washington DC. I was tasked with briefing the Sri Lankans and the British High Commission on the case and seeking their help to make the transportation process go smoothly--we, for example, did not want Long making a "break for it" in Colombo or London, demanding asylum or creating a scene of some sort. The Sri Lankans and the British promised full support.

I will stop there as we approach the end of this sorry tale. We are almost finished.


14 comments:

  1. I fully expect to read in the conclusion of this odyssey that AC and Long have now been given important posts high up in Obama's State Department.

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    1. Sorry ... But after all, these Obama bozos clearly are a criminal enterprise ... Perhaps if impeachment can't happen for obvious reasons, we can apply the RICO statutes?

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  2. The "piano scene" now that's movie stuff. Sounds like he nearly broke right there. I'm sure Long almost had a heart attack. With the adoption certs, I think a "corrupt Viet Namese" official is more likely than her being a current agent. Being inside and operating for years without a hiccup is pretty good, but paranoia is hard to escape. "Where's the love?" huh, I bet you really had that loving feeling for them.

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  3. Dip, I can't imagine going through this for 18 months. As you say, life is tough enough overseas without having to wear your poker face all the time with your own people. Great story.

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    1. I agree.Years ago, I worked with a compulsive liar very closely for about 18 months. I remember gritting my teeth to show no reaction as she would smile and laugh and lie easily and boldly, without a trace of conscience. It gives me a chill to this day, and my experience had nothing like the impact or consequence of yours. 18 months can be an eternity.

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    2. I worked with one of those as well - a new enlisted troop at a military radio/tv station overseas. She was utterly convincing - but she lied like other people breathed, and for no particular reason - and the worst of all, she was vengeful with it. Anyone who tried to discipline her, she would get back at them by telling strategic and very convincing lies about them to a superior. Eventually, of course, everyone on base figured this out, and she was booted from the assignment and from the Air Force as well. A couple of years later, I had a letter from her, forwarded to my new military assignment; she wanted me to testify to her good character. Likely she wanted the less-than-honorable discharge upgraded so she could get a civil service job. I tore up the letter into little tiny pieces. I'd gotten enough grief from her, the first time around.

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  4. Matt, the Seventh ReaderJune 19, 2014 at 8:03 AM

    I hate to sound repetitive but, please write a book about your experiences.

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  5. I googled the final conviction for Long. Sad it was so short.

    Thanks for posting the tale.

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    Replies
    1. Hell, we don't even lock up traitorous spies for all that long anymore.

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  6. They aren't one of us.

    Bill Whittle had this to say:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ysQl4aW7tMEsd


    leaperman

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  7. Thanks for writing this. Fascinating story -- definitely worth a book, maybe a movie (although it is difficult to tell a story as complex & involved as this in a movie). Maybe a TV series?

    Not clear why the State Department let this run on as long as it did. Surely putting a stop to fake visa issuance quickly would be more important than satisfying lawyers about the solidity of the case? Unless State too was concerned that there was a spy connection underlying the criminality.

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