A retired Florida surgeon with early dementia will be sentenced next week for bringing €100,000 worth ($113,843) of cocaine into Dublin Airport after falling for an online phishing scam.
Dr Carlos Cruz Soriano, 76, of Cove Circle, Riverview, FL began responding to phishing emails after his retirement, and was in contact with the scammers for a number of years.
The scammers told him that long lost relative had died and he was due to inherit $2.3 million.
Dublin Circuit Court heard that Soriano, who has early onset dementia, became isolated and depressed following his retirement from a “glittering career,” and communication with the email scammers became his only contact with the outside world.
The scammers, who first contacted Soriano by email three years ago, gained the doctor’s trust and sent him on a “dry run” to Hong Kong before flying him to Columbia where he was given the paperwork for his inheritance as well as a “gift” in a red bag for Irish banking officials who would facilitate the transfer of funds, the Sunday World reports.
Soriano pleaded guilty to possession of cocaine valued at €107,000 in the arrivals hall at Dublin Airport on September 1, 2015.
He has no previous convictions and since his arrest, has been held in custody in Ireland.
Sergeant Fergal Finnegan told the prosecuting lawyer that immigration officials had concerns about Soriano when he arrived in Dublin as he had only $300 and did not have a return ticket to the United States. He had traveled to Ireland from Bogota via Panama and Paris.
When questioned, Soriano told customs officials that the red bag he was carrying contained a gift for banking officials which would facilitate the transfer of his inheritance from a relative he had never heard of until recently.
The doctor cooperated with the officials, allowing them to X-ray and examine the red bag, in which they found 1.86 kilograms of cocaine in three packets.
Sgt Finnegan said that at first police were skeptical that Soriano could have fallen for such a scam, but as the interviews went on they became aware that there were underlying issues.
He said police found documentation that Soriano had printed out about other “phishing” scams. He admitted he knew that they were scams, but he said he was lonely and would respond to them for “a little bit of fun.”
Despite this, said Sgt Finnegan, Soriano remained adamant that he was still due the inheritance.
Soriano became excited when he was told he was going to prison because the thought he would now be around people and have a chance to make friends.
He told police that he was a surgeon with a practice in Florida until he retired in 2004. Soriano said he had not expected to live so long and all of his savings were gone leaving him and his wife living on social security. He has four children and seven grandchildren.
Defending lawyer Caroline Biggs told the court that Soriano had an “eminent career” as a surgeon, had written a book about his life, published papers and had been honored with keys to the city of St Petersburg, FL.
Psychologist Dr Ian Gargan said that Soriano had bipolar and depressive disorder, as well as early onset dementia. He agreed with Biggs that the doctor’s life had fallen apart after retirement and that he was highly suggestible. He said it was a “very extreme and very sad” case.
Judge Melanie Greally said Soriano's isolation and ailing mental health had contributed to him being susceptible to manipulation by “sinister forces,” and that she believed he did not appreciate the serious nature of his conduct.
She also noted that rather than availing of “other options” he had chosen to plead guilty early on.
Sunday World reports that the judge indicated that she would impose a five year sentence which she would fully suspend on condition Soriano leave the country. She adjourned the case until next week for finalization to allow arrangements be put in place for his return to the United States.