Gullible or Guilty?

The most costly of all follies is to believe passionately in the palpably not true.  It is the chief occupation of mankind.  Henry Louis Mencken, 1880 – 1956,  American journalist, essayist, magazine editor and satirist. 

 Sharon Armstrong

Sharon Armstrong is a middle aged Maori woman who is currently residing in an Argentinian jail.  She is charged with exporting drugs out of the country.

Her’s is a strange but ever more common story.   She says she’s been without a partner for “many years, and that’s a choice” – deciding to put her energies into her whanau (Maori word for family).   She even moved to Australia to be closer to them.

Unbeknownst to her, one of her family members apparently registered her with  an online dating service.  Through this service she met the man who was to prove to be her downfall.

Sharon Armstrong’s original reaction was that the website was “creepy”, but when an attractive man contacted her, she decided to give online dating a go.  As she says “[He] looked really nice, really friendly, warm, all of those things. He had a nice profile.”  As the man lived near her they met at her house the following weekend.

The story then played out as follows:

  • The man claimed he had a job interview in London and would keep in touch via email
  • In an email he said he had been admitted to a private hospital in London – Ms Armstrong sent him money – Why?
  • The man asked Ms Armstrong to go to Argentina to complete some business on his behalf and then meet him in London, she agreed – Again why?
  • The night before Ms Armstrong was due to leave for London, she was rung by another person who advised her the documents would already be packaged in a suitcase, and she was expected to take the lot as it was – Would you do so?
  • When she got back to her hotel she opened the case and couldn’t see ‘the documents’.
  • Ms Armstrong then emailed the woman, who had handed her the case, asking her why the documents were hidden. The woman told her that there were “bad people here in Argentina, this is a very important contract”, and that it was hidden for her own safety.  Would you have accepted that explanation?
  • The woman also advised Ms Armstrong that should she be stopped by customs she should tell them about the documents and that they were welcome to take a look. Why didn’t warning bells ring?  Why would the woman expect that Armstrong might be stopped by customs?
  • And the rest of the story is that she was stopped by customs; the bag was searched; the drugs were found and she now awaits trial.

This woman was not a young first time traveler who must surely be aware of the dangers of taking anything through customs for anybody else.  Why would she put herself in such danger?  What did she reply when asked if she had packed the suitcase herself?

Ms Armstrong has recently given an interview to TV3 here in New Zealand.  Here is the link.  She what you think. – click here

Her case has been taken up by a prominent Argentina Law firm.  “What I find interesting about her case is she seems to be innocent,” says Mr Osler (presumably a partner in the firm).  “Every single person I talk to believes her.  Beyond belief however, it will be very hard to prove.”

The questions raised are many:

  • The former Wellington civil servant said she was tricked into believing she was taking a top secret business contract to a man in London that she had been dating online for six months. Are we to believe Armstrong – who is a former parole officer – really thought she was carrying a ‘secret contract’ in her suitcase?
  • Why would she send money to a comparative stranger?
  • Why would she agree to change her travel plans to take in Argentina on her way to London?  This is not the usual route Wellington to London.
  • Her family members are firmly behind her – will this help her case in a foreign land?

We will have to wait for the outcome of the trial for these and other questions to be satisfactorily answered.

18 responses to “Gullible or Guilty?

  1. I don’t understand why her eyes have to be blurred out during the interview. Why, is there something wrong with her eyes, like apparent drug use? Were they attempting to keep her identity secret from the “bad” people? or prison inmates? – that to me was odd, since we see her face on different segments. Then the camera panned to her tattoos. What was that about, because she has tattoos she must be guility?

    She has a lot of detail for a made up story. It does sound convincing when she tells it, and they should be able to find the profile of this man on the dating website and pursue him for questioning. Certainly, if they e-mailed back and forth (text), she should be able to hand over her computer/laptop/phone for history of these communications. That should help determine her innocence.

    It is difficult to believe she was willing to send money, go on this journey without ever having met the man in person. Some people are so lonely, they want to believe everything is true and so sad. Wow, those must have been some amazing e-mails to make someone fall in love with you. Or perhaps she’s a compulsive liar and drug abuser herself.

    Only an investigation will tell. There should be some evidence backing up her story.

    Lake Forest, CA USA


    • `Hi Sandi. She did apparently meet the man once at her home in Auckland. But I am amazed that she would be foolish enough to send money to him after meeting him once.
      No comment in the media as to the hunt for either the man or the woman who handed the case to her has been made. Perhaps the powers that be are interested only in her because she was the one breaking the law.


  2. Oh is hard to believe her but people have been more gullible than that I guess. Do you know if they have tracked down the others involved?


  3. As I responded above, nobody seems to be interested in anyone involved except her.


  4. Hopefully the truth will be determined.


  5. Hmmm, more than just gullible … very very stupid.


  6. A sad but not uncommon story. So many people get caught up, we wonder why they never saw the red flags. We have a program on television here in the NE US, called Locked up Abroad where they interview the person after release. Each time I watch, I’m amazed at how trusting people are.
    Sorry, the video didn’t work on my end –


    • But we wonder how or why people are tricked in this way. We all have read the stories of how others have been duped, yet there are still people who get caught.
      Sorry about the video link.


  7. Who knows why people do the things they do? Did she think this man loved her after six months of on-line dating? People do a lot of strange things for love or to be loved. But I find it strange that the authorities don’t seem interested in finding these scam artists because they probably have been scamming other people and getting away with it, especially because their schemes are so elaborate.


  8. It’s almost unbelievable that someone would fall for that, given how much news is reported about similar situtions. However, some people are so desparate for love, money, etc., that they’d believe just about anything.


  9. My money’s on gullible…I hope she gets off…



    • I do too. The media has been silent of recent times on the subject and I do hope that she can provide enough proof – emails etc – to convince a jury in another country that she is gullible.


  10. WordsFallFromMyEyes

    I am enormously, enormously gullible, but skeptical too. I could not have brought myself to go to the airport without looking in the suitcase.

    This is a highly distressing story. Really awful.


    • It is amazing because she was a highly placed Civil Servant here in New Zealand. And since that time – almost 2 years ago – we have heard nothing of this woman. Presumable she is still languishing in jail.


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