Traveling overseas is the best kind of travel that exists. There really is nothing else like soaking up another culture, eating delicious food, and meeting great people. However different cultures mean different laws. What is fun in America could be illegal in another country. And while there might be nothing better than traveling around a foreign country, there is also nothing worse than spending the rest of your life in a foreign prison. Learn a lesson from these American tourists who made a mistake (or five) and ended up getting convicted by foreign courts.
Amanda Knox – Crime: Accused of Murder
In an extreme case of getting in too deep, twenty-year old University of Washington student Amanda Knox was recently sentenced to twenty-five years in prison for the murder of her roommate Meredith Kercher in Perugia, Italy. Knox or “Foxy Knoxy,” as she’s called in Italy, was convicted along with her Italian boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito for Kercher’s murder. The prosecution claims that Kercher’s murder was the result of a drug fueled orgy that went horribly wrong. Currently, Knox sits in an Italian jail cell, hoping for an appeal.
Lesson: No matter how good the Italian sex and drugs are, do not kill the other woman!
Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd and Joshua Fattal – Crime: Accused of Spying
Talk about a hiking trip gone bad! Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd, and Joshua Fattal are all graduates of the University of California, Berkeley with considerable experience in traveling and reporting from abroad. In August 2009 however, Bauer, Shourd and Fattal took a hiking trip and wandered into Iranian territory (which is an obvious no-no for Americans!) and were swiftly surrounded by Iranian troops, accused of being spies, and arrested. The three are still imprisoned and face intense interrogation by Iranian authorities.
Lesson: For God’s sake, bring a map!
Eliadah “Lia” McCord – Crime: Smuggling Heroin
Eighteen year old Lia McCord’s was broke and looking to make some fast cash. Enter Lia’s roommate who hooked her up with a “friend,” who offered her $20,000 to smuggle heroin out of Bangladesh. Finding this an offer too good to resist, Lia soon found herself in a Bangladesh airport with seven pounds of heroin duct taped to her body. Lia would have made it on the plane were it not for an eagle-eyed official who detained her, searched her, arrested her, and watched as she was sentenced to five years in a Bangladeshi prison (a big drop from the death by hanging that she was originally sentenced to!)
Lesson: Beg your parents for money before you smuggle drugs!
Lori Berenson – Crime: Political Prisoner
Talk about being in the wrong place at the wrong time! In 1995, Lori Berenson left MIT to travel through Peru where she just happened to befriend some Peruvians who just happened to be members of the Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement; a Peruvian terrorist group responsible for several insurgent attacks. On November 30, 1995 while riding on a public bus in downtown Lima with Nancy Gilvonio (who just happened to be married to the MRTA’s second in command), Berenson was arrested, accused of being a leader of the MRTA, and sentenced to life in prison.
Lesson: Be extremely cautious of who you befriend abroad!
Brendan Cosso – Crime: Smuggling Cocaine
In 1993, Brendan Cosso and his three pals were approached by a flashy acquaintance named “John” about making some easy money smuggling cocaine out of Brazil for $50,000. They attempted to board a plane in Sao Paulo with several packs of cocaine taped to their body. They checked in and were immediately spotted by an official who noticed their nervous body language. Upon their arrest, they were sent to the notorious Carandiru prison, where they served four and a half glorious years.
Lesson: Smuggling drugs is NEVER easy money!