Good or Bad for the Jews

"Good or Bad for the Jews"

Many years ago, and for many years, I would travel to Morocco to visit uncles, cousins, and my paternal grandmother. Some lived in Tangiers;...

Friday, June 20, 2014

Big Fraud in the Far Abroad, Part X: The Long Good-Bye

It was now late April 2003, and, as noted, the prosecutors finally had given the go-ahead to arrest AC and Long. AC, of course, now lived in Medford, Oregon. We wanted them both detained at the same time despite the twelve-and-half hour time difference between Oregon and Sri Lanka. FBI and DS wanted Long arrested on US Embassy grounds. AC was to be arrested at around 7 am Oregon time as he left the house for the restaurant just after the kids had gotten on the school bus. That meant we had to grab Long around 7:30 pm Colombo time. We needed, therefore, to make sure that she would be at the Chancery at that time.

I cooked up an "all Americans must attend" meeting for 7:00 pm; I sent an email to American employees and their spouses telling them we would hold a mandatory meeting at 7:00 pm and they could have no excuses for not attending, "Even if you are to dine with the British Queen, you will call that off and be at the Chancery for this critical meeting." On getting the message, Long came to my office to try to get more of the story. I said, "The Ambassador will make an important announcement. I don't know anything else." She also tried to pry additional information out of the RSO and the Ambassador but got the same answer with the additional bit that the announcement would affect admin operations making it, therefore, crucial to have her and her American staff present.

At about 6 pm, Long came back to ask if I had additional information about the meeting. I said, "No, I don't have anything more." She shrugged and replied, "Oh, well. I am going down to the gym for some bicycling, take a shower, and be back up." That was my last conversation with Long. She headed down to the tiny gym she had had built. Just before the appointed time for the meeting, the Ambassador walked into my office and said, "You take the meeting. I am going to be with the investigators."

I walked down to our small conference room as the American employees and their spouses dutifully trooped in. Long, meanwhile, had returned to her office, still wearing her gym shorts; she sought to dry her hair, change, and get down to the meeting.

The Ambassador went into her office and said, "Long, these gentlemen want to talk to you." He pointed at some DS and FBI agents standing behind him.

"But what about the meeting? I don't want to be late."

"Don't worry about that, just go with them." The agents escorted her to one of the RSO's offices and closed the door.

I sat at the head of the big conference table fending off questions, telling people to show patience, to wait, we had some news developing. The phone on the table rang. The Ambassador told me, "AC has been arrested in Oregon. Long is being arrested right now. Tell the folks."

I announced the arrests; a gasp went through the room. Everybody knew Long and AC. There was widespread disbelief. I further announced that several of our local employees had been involved in the visa scheme, including some of my own residence staff, and were being visited as I spoke by local police and the RSO's people. We were conducting searches of their Chancery offices. These employees would be barred from Embassy grounds, fired, lose their pensions, and perhaps have criminal charges brought against them. A DS investigator from Washington gave a quick summary of the case, emphasizing that this was perhaps the biggest visa fraud case in Department history, noting that some $3 million might have been involved. Our Public Affairs officer read the announcement we would make to the local press the next morning; we would go public and not try to hide the corruption. The meeting broke up.

I returned to my office and sat there with my wife. "Well," I told her, "My first time as DCM and I have the biggest fraud case ever on my watch, and I have to jail or fire half the embassy. This is not good." My wife, who had soured on the State Department, Colombo, and BS, eventually went home. I stayed, really for no reason. The Ambassador also was hanging around. We went out on the balcony into the warm tropical night so he could smoke a couple of cigarettes and I a cigar. We sipped bourbon. We didn't talk very much. We stared at the ocean and the starry sky, listened to the waves, took in the breeze. After thirty minutes or so, he went back to his office and I to mine.

Some time after midnight, the door opened to the RSO office where Long was being interrogated. She was escorted out. The Ambassador and I walked out of our offices and watched her walk down the hallway to the elevator. Her head hung down, long hair down the sides of her head hiding all but a slight glimpse of her profile, hands behind her, with an agent on either side of holding an arm. She  still wore the gym shorts. Her flip-flops made the only sound. Long looked small and frail, even old and tired, in the midst of the young federal agents. She did not look at us, keeping her eyes focussed some two or three feet in front of her. The elevator doors opened, in she went, and was gone.

I never saw her again.

One more post to come on this story reporting on some of the aftermath of the scandal.


  1. excellent story!

    - reader #1482

  2. "I never saw her again." But did you hear from her again? I mean beside from the necessary contact due to legal procedures?
    James the Lesser

    1. Right, James. A long, weepy apology. No, better still: in her new job in the Obama administration, a job offer.

  3. This story has been incredibly captivating. I find myself holding my breath as I check the site several times a day, in hopes that the next chapter will be posted. You seriously need to write a book about the things you have experienced in your career. Keep up the good work and I cannot wait to read the conclusion!!!

    From the Penal Colony formerly known as New York

  4. What a terrific story!! And, as of today, a good ending.
    I've been looking forward to every single installment. Thank you.

  5. Right after hearing of her arrest, I would have had your desk thoroughly disinfected!

  6. About your Viet Nam intelligence or corruption angle, let me make the following observations on why I suspect corruption more than intelligence.

    I handled immigration cases out of Viet Nam for the Orderly Departure Program when I was posted to Bangkok, in addition to working with the general run-of-the-mill Thai immigrants. One working presupposition with ODP was that if it was Vietnamese and a document, it was probably fake (especially when it came to persons applying under the Amerasian homecoming act).

    As a Chinese speaker and reader, I was often called on to handle translation for other agencies. We often had Chinese walk-ins, because it was not too long after the Tiananmen massacre. One thread we got from those people, including military deserters, was that the Fujian coast was too carefully watched for fleeing dissidents.

    Yet in the same timeframe, alien-smuggling rings operating in the Fuzhou area (not all of Fujian: basically, it was a handful of counties near Fuzhou) weren't missing a beat. Then, at one point, the Thais picked up a suspicious Chinese and allowed our INS people access. I was pegged to translate.

    Well, the documents found on this suspicious Chinese included the Party Secretary for Fujian Province and several brass of the Fujian Garrison Command--and this was at a time when tensions between Taiwan and the Mainland were still in evidence. The INS guys, a couple of Hispanics from the Southwest, started talking rapidly and excitedly in Spanish, tuned to me with an Habla usted Espanol? And I heard them cursing under their breaths when they found I was not Spanish-speaking. In any case, it appeared to me that the Snakehead was probably well-connected in Fuzhou. My guess was, and I suspect that of my two Hispanic INS colleagues, was that the Fuzhou alien-smuggling racket probably had a fair amount of official Chinese Communist cover; although we could not be sure if its was truly directed from above or just a wide ring of local and civil officials taking advantage of an opportunity for corruption.

    Hence, I'm of the mind that any "revolutionary virtue" the two major ruling Communist parties of Asia ever had died long ago.

    However, I still would not rule out some intelligence angle completely. My suspecting corruption in Long Lee's case is based on the either/or premise; which sometimes ought to be both/and.

  7. Again, I will add my voice to the chorus crying, "Book! Book! Book! Book!"

    If nothing else, the Foreign Service is full of people who know how to write, and Mr. Amselem is one of them. Many of us here have indeed followed this unhappy saga of AmEmbassy Colombo more eagerly than we've ever followed a serial or set of sports events on TV.

    Further, I think that the public needs to have a better picture of how the foreign service really works. Like a lot of my generation, I was raised on the idea that the State Department never did anything except keep out Jews who were trying to flee Hitler's Europe (now you know something about my ethnic background); provide cushy employment for reactionary drones who'd graduated from the Ivy League); and miss cues on how we might make nice with various "waves of the future" that have washed through geopolitics. Either that or they think I once served in the French Foreign Legion. Hmmmph. Je ne suis pas un singe de surrender! Zut alors!

    Whereas I was nothing but a lowly consular scut who did a bit of political and refugee/migration reporting, Mr. Amselem is in a position to present a good picture of the mix of dedicated public servants, politicians, hacks, and sleazebags who populate State; a sense of the realities of dealing with foreign governments; and how the FS is, in many ways, representative of quite a cross-section of well-educated (not necessarily Ivy League) Americans.

    The news may give us a picture of the big, dramatic, president-to-president moments in US diplomacy (or, as with the O maladministration, posturing to self-important international bodies). However, the day-to-day work of diplomacy, keeping US relations with wherever on an even keel, or sensing the next major trouble spot (and even real services given to citizens abroad and LEGAL immigrants) are important, too, and need something better than the calumnies of bitter journalists and Hollywood Screenwriter FSO wannabes--even if it's the warts-and-all picture that Mr. Amselem is more than capable of giving us.

  8. I agree -- Mr. A is a good writer, and has inside knowledge of how the foreign service works. This particular intriguing episode is one of many in his experience, I'm sure.

    A book about this would be popular, I'm sure. But just a caveat: As Diplomad, he writes from a particular political viewpoint, which all 10 of us enjoy. But a book about the foreign service should be politically neutral -- don't give the lefties ammunition to discredit his stories as "political whining".

  9. "As Diplomad, he writes from a particular political viewpoint ..."

    I think I disagree with that statement, well actually I do disagree. While I'd say sure as in Conservative - but not so much really as "our political landscape" recently is lately defined.

    Actually I find Diplomad's blog well, "refreshing" I suppose.

    By that I mean. No "sacred cows."


  10. Diplomad, let us know when we can pre-order at Amazon. You have the art of the cliffhanger, leave-them-wanting-more timing down cold. Having been a reader of Diplomad 1.0 I know you've got a lot of material to work with.

  11. Yes - I really disagree on the apolitical angle. The book should have a "conservative at Yale" hook. Get Bolton to write forward. BTW happen to know he is reader.

  12. A great story beautifully told. I hope the epilogue will tell us that Long and AC reaped their just deserts.