Brazil: Single Gringo Beware!
By Mark Taylor
With Internet romance having rapidly become one of the most likely ways to meet a future partner there are of course those people out there who are willing to use and abuse such things. Those who meet via the Internet, particularly in long distance relationships with those from distinctly different cultures, need to take that extra bit of care in protecting themselves from the very small minority that are abusing it.
A very sad case of this in Brazil recently hit international headlines. A US musician, Raymond Merrill, had got in contact with a Brazilian woman, Regina Rachid living in Sao Jose dos Campos in São Paulo state, via an undisclosed Internet dating site. Merrill had already visited Rachid in Brazil several times, lavishing gifts on her including a car, and back in April came for another trip after being begged to return by Rachid. Unbeknownst to Merrill, Rachid had been planning to rob and murder him, with the help of her actual boyfriend. Rachid managed to obtain the PIN numbers to Merrills credit cards after drugging him for several days, then strangled him to death with a cable. Rachid and her boyfriend then dumped the body and burned it, in an attempt at disguising the crime.
Merrills sister alerted US police after a month of frantic communication attempts with her brother, but although an investigation was launched and Merrills bank accounts were found to be drained, neither the body was linked to the crime or Rachid was identified. Purely by luck Rachid was apprehended in São Paulo when committing another robbery in June, and Merrells credit card was found on her. Fortunately Brazilian police made the connection and she was arrested for the murder, and the body was exhumed for DNA tests.
Of course Internet dating scams are nothing particularly new, nor are romance related scams full stop. Rio de Janeiro is one area in Brazil, particularly in places like Ipanema and some particular bars/clubs there, where garotas de programa (prostitutes) scam arguably naive foreign men who come to Brazil for work or tourism. Although the scam is well known to Brazilians, its not known at all to the foreign men who often frequent the areas. Typically the prostitutes come from poor areas of Brazil, and are desperate to escape their lifestyle. Unlike traditional methods of prostitution they will try and spend as much time with the men, being wined and dined, and then eventually suggest they get engaged, meet their family etc. The women can often be doing this between normal prostitution work, as well as meeting up with other foreigners. Of course most single men can find it hard to resist the charms of a young attractive Brazilian girl, and no doubt often cant believe their luck.
In terms of advice on avoiding problems, the golden rule to remember is to use common sense. If you travel to Brazil make sure friends and family know where you are and arrange to contact them regularly. Make sure they know where you are staying, and get the address and contact details of the person youve arranged to meet. If theyre less than forthcoming that should already be a warning sign. If friends and family dont speak Portuguese, try and find someone else in the area they can contact who speaks a suitable language as a backup. Even arrange to meet up with other foreigners so you have contacts in the local area should they be needed. Make sure you have backup plans on where to stay if there are relationship problems, and that banks and credit card companies are advised of any withdrawal limits while youre away. With Internet based relationships, keep an eye out for other warning signs as well, such as requests for money and gifts, or erratic and volatile behaviour. Although it can be difficult in the initial throes of a relationship, try and take a step back and think about whether you feel things are making sense.
I just read your article about Regina Rachid. I deal with cases of gringo men who suffer "golpes" from Brazilian girls, as well as Brazilian girls who go to the UK and suffer at the hands of English men. But nothing like this!
You might be interested to know that I met Regina Filomena Crasovich Rachid one Friday morning last November while having morning coffee at a São Paulo shopping center. She is an incredibly beautiful woman in her forties and surprised me by coming on very strong to me. She was with her daughter, also beautiful and also mentioned in the press. She gave me her phone and e-mail. We exchanged e-mails - hence I know her full name and can confirm she is the same person - and arranged to meet the following week, again for coffee at the shopping center. When I am meeting with a woman I do not know and know nothing about, I always arrange to meet in public places. A standard security precaution for a single man.
At the second meeting, she give me a very convoluted story about her own personal and professional life that made little sense, so I was on guard. I started to think it could be a set-up, due to other ongoing issues I was having.
I told her about my profession and her body language changed noticeably as I described my activities. After we said goodbye, she never contacted me again.
(Note: the above comment has been edited)
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Previous articles by Mark:
Brazil: The House of Coffee Comes Home
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Brazil: Election Time! Part 1
Brazil: Torrent TV
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Brazil: Whistle-stop Salvador Part 2
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Brazil: Trading Places
Brazil: São Paulos Pinacoteca
Brazil: Dont Forget, Youre in Another Country!
Brazil: PCC Violence Returns to São Paulo
Brazil: A Recycled City Part 5
Brazil's World Cup Defeat Party
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