How does a sensible,middle-aged NewZealand woman end up serving time in a Buenos Aires jail for drug trafficking?
2011 the startling news broke around New Zealand that Sharon Armstrong, a middle-aged grandmother and public servant who worked for the Māori Language Commission had been arrested in Argentina with 5kg of cocaine in her suitcase.
The response from the media was one of scorn and disbelief – it seemed no-one could accept Sharon’s explanation that she’d been transporting the bag for her boyfriend Frank and had no idea she was trafficking drugs. The public’s reaction was brutal: how could anyone be so stupid as to carry a bag for a man they’d only met online?
Based on her published account, this is the story behind the romance scam that trapped Sharon in its net. It is a story of a world we can’t imagine. A world where hundreds of scammers systematically throw out fish hooks across the West to see who they can catch. A massive and well-resourced world of call centres full of men and women working to prescribed scripts, harnessing psychological insights, preying on the lonely, the disappointed and the vulnerable. An organised numbers game: of every 2,000 social messages delivered, one will bite. A game that ruthlessly targets and seeks to confuse, throw off balance, trap and ensnare ‘marks’ who are no longer seen as people, but as cannon fodder, sacrificial lambs to the greater goal of drug importation.
This is a shocking story of unbelievable size and complexity.
This is Sharon Armstrong’s story. In truth, it could happen to anyone. Coming to your screens 2020 with thanks to New Zealand on Air and TVNZ