Saskatchewan family devastated after mom jailed in Brazil after falling for scam

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Cara Naylor is known to family and her best friend as a caring, kind, and trusting person.

It’s that trusting nature they believe may be the reason Naylor travelled to Brazil at the beginning of February, to collect alleged inheritance money.

Naylor’s brother, Jack Prier, says his sister was told by people that they wanted a “good-hearted soul” to get the money. Prier said he doesn’t know who these people are.

Simone Gale and Carrie Naylor from Esterhazy, Sask., say their mom has fallen victim to a scam, and this is not the first time. Naylor has been victim to romance scams, when she gave over an estimated thousands in savings to the scammers.

Naylor was told she’d need to travel to Brazil by the individuals she had been communicating with, then onto Cyprus, a small island in the Mediterranean Sea, to finalize the banking and receive the inheritance.

Quite a few Canadians have fallen victim to this scam according to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. At least 30 Canadians lost more than $2.2 million in 2021 falling for similar promises.

Cara’s family and best friend tried to convince her not to go, skeptical about the whole idea, but Gale’s brother woke up to discover her missing from his home in Edmonton, where she was staying.

“My heart just sunk and it’s taken me this long — I still don’t think I’ve properly even processed it,” Gale said.

In Facebook messages reviewed by Global News, Gale asked her mom what she was doing, and Cara responded she was in Brazil to collect an inheritance.

Cara followed with a photo of a suitcase. Cara told Gale she was asked to take it to Cyprus and assured her daughter she would open it and check it.

A photo of the suitcase shows men’s clothing, some wrapped in plastic. Cara told her daughter she checked through the clothing and “squeezed” the lining of the suitcase.

Gale warned her “they’re not going to make it obvious.”

Cara’s best friend of more than 50 years, Karen Maguire, said Cara spoke to her about the inheritance before and Maguire told Cara to take paperwork she had received to a bank or lawyer to get it checked out.

“I don’t believe she did,” Maguire said.

Maguire added Cara was sent an itinerary for the trip including hotel details.

“They made it seem so real,” she said.

Maguire said Cara last messaged her on Feb. 7 saying she was being taken to the airport in Brazil.

“She said, ‘They’re here to get me,’ and I just messaged back, ‘OK, I love you,” Maguire said, adding that she also tried to stop Cara from going to Brazil.

On the morning of Feb. 8, Prier, Cara’s brother, received a call from São Paulo, Brazil.

From what the family understands, drugs were found in the suitcase Cara had by federal police officers at São Paulo International Airport.

The suitcase was cut open where about three kilograms of cocaine was found.

When Prier picked up the phone, he heard his sister on the other end and a prison guard telling her she had ‘four minutes’.

“My first response was, why? Why would you not talk to somebody before you did this? Why did you do it for the money?”

Prier said “She was crying and trying to get the words out (saying) ‘please help me’ and ‘I’m sorry, I didn’t know’ — stuff like that … The guard, you could hear him in the background say, ‘four minutes are up,’ but honestly it seemed like 40 seconds we talked. It was just a blur.”

In an email from a Global Affairs Canada representative provided to Global News by Cara’s family, the department indicates it is aware Cara has been detained in Brazil. Meanwhile, it’s evident she is on the Global Affairs’ radar, as confirmed in a statement from an Ottawa-based spokesperson to Global News.

“Consular officials are providing consular assistance and are in communication with the family and local authorities. To protect the privacy of the individual concerned, further details on this case cannot be released,” Sabrina Williams said.

Global Affairs could not confirm the date of the arrest or the charges the individual was facing to Global News, citing privacy concerns.

Prier said it’s devastating and hard to fathom.

“It has been all-consuming. It stays with you all day. You try to go to work, but most of your day is spent on your phone, on emails, on WhatsApp and text, trying to stay in contact with these people and make something happen for our family,” Prier said.

The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) has warned Canadians about this type of scam.

In a release posted on its website in 2019, CBSA said drug trafficking organizations use various scams to target Canadian seniors to act as “unwitting drug couriers.”

One known tactic includes the use of an inheritance scam, such as the one that Cara has fallen victim to. Once the fraudster builds a relationship with the victim, they then require the victim to travel to destinations, including South America, to receive the funds.

“During these trips, the victims may be asked to take seemingly harmless items along with them (to) contacts in another country that they are being directed to travel to, or back home to Canada,” CBSA said.

CBSA said the items can later be discovered to contain drugs, which results in arrest and detention by local authorities.

“The drugs are often concealed, for example, in the false sides of luggage, clothing, chocolates, candies, canned goods, boxes of tea, picture frames and toiletries,” CBSA said.

Carrie said her mom falls for scams because of her caring personality.

Carrie said “she really wants to believe the best in everyone. It’s clear that she’s very gullible and I guess maybe that’s the word for it. But she’s the nicest woman really around and I think everyone has that to say about her.”

Sharing their story has also led to some negative reaction from the community.

“Dealing with people’s reactions has been really, really tough,” Gale said.

“(They) think we’re scamming them … because it just seems unbelievable,” Carrie said.

Carrie said the family has to explain the situation daily.

Cara’s brother has retained a lawyer for his sister in Brazil. Prier added Canadian embassy workers and a doctor have visited Cara to ensure she has proper medical treatment.

To raise funds to pay the legal fees, the family started a fundraiser on a crowdfunding website. They’ve also chipped in their own money and received other donations.

The lawyer informed the family that she was able to see Cara and she was doing well.

“(Cara) was quite upset and elated to learn that someone back home was battling to get her out of there,” Prier, Cara’s brother said.

He said the lawyer will be meeting with the Brazilian prosecutor to see if they can agree to a lesser charge.

Cara hasn’t been indicted for an international drug trafficking charge yet.

Global News has tried to contact with Cara’s lawyer but did not receive a response before publication.

As far as the family knows, Cara could face up to eight or 10 years behind bars for an international drug trafficking charge.

With five kids and five grandkids and another grandchild on the way, the family is finding it hard to process that possibility.

“I’m expecting my first baby next month, so eight to 10 years — I mean that’s her grandkid’s entire childhood right there that she’s missing out on,” Gale said.

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