Darryl Fornatora case raises warning about dangers of traveling abroad
by Greg Angel
WEST PALM BEACH, Fl. (CBS12) —
For seven months now, family and friends of Darryl Fornatora have been pressing for answers to find out how the beloved Lake Park tennis pro suddenly disappeared under suspect circumstances.
There are questions that his disappearance may be part of a wider problem of crime and corruption that may very well also involve local police in the Dominican Republic.
John Ekman and Lori Breeden of Oregon returned home recently after they say they were trapped in the Dominican Republican for six months.
“We didn’t have a choice,” Breeden said. “Everybody was making decisions for us.”
The couple said they were involved in a set-up where they were blamed for hitting a man with their car when they did not. The players in the operation include police, prosecutors and people on the street.
“They threw me in jail that was like a 16 by 20 concrete hole with a couple of gritty alcoves and wet garbage,” Ekman said.
He was eventually released, but their passports were taken by local authorities. The couple said it wasn’t until the U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo got more involved that their passports were given back, and they were allowed to return home.
Ekman said he believes he and his girlfriend could have been home a lot sooner had he been willing to bribe public officials.
About the same time, Darryl Fornatora and his friend Matt Rigby traveled to the Dominican Republican. It was supposed to have been a week-long surfing trip.
Since that time, his family has been given little information and are now left wondering whether Darryl’s disappearance may be part of a much bigger danger operating in plain sight.
Cabarate in the Dominican Republic is a magnet for avid surfers like Darryl and Matt, both of whom had been on similarly surf trips.
“On the Sunday before he left, he said to me ‘mom, you don’t have to worry about me on this trip,” Nancy Fornatora said, admitting she always worried about her 45 year old son when he went on these trips.
Since her son’s disappearance, she has learned that places like the Dominican Republic are far more dangerous than they appear in travel brochures.
According to his family, Darryl originally planned to go the Bahamas to surf but was encouraged by Matt to instead go to Cabarate.
Investigators in the Dominican Republic have changed theories time and time again about what may have happened, and dismissed claims that Darryl, like other tourists, may have gotten caught up in foul play.
“Darryl said he felt like they were being set up,” Nancy Fornatora said.
There have been similar stories about tourists being taken hostage, robbed and victimized. Exactly how many tourists become victims no one will know.
According to the U.S. Department of State, no one tracks nor records incidents of tourists becoming victims of crime in places like the Dominican Republic.
The governments of the United States, Canada, United Kingdom and others are among those with travel warnings, cautioning tourists to be on extreme alert due to high levels of crime.
In a statement to CBS12 in May, the Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism said “…The wellbeing of visitors is the top priority for MITUR, and the organization is committed to maintaining the country’s status as one of the safest and most visited touristic destinations in the Caribbean.”
The U.S. Department of State, however, ranks Dominican Republican’s safety threat level at critical and says on their website “…significant crime exists throughout the Dominican Republic… criminals often have weapons and are likely to use them if they meet resistance.”
The Tourism Ministry has not responded to the dozens of calls and emails from CBS12, as a follow up, in the months since the initial statement was provided.
VICTIM OF CRIME?
Facing one dead-end after another and few answers from Dominican investigators, the family of Darryl Fornatora hired retired New York City Police detective, and renowned private investigator, Beau Dietl.
He released a video recently (LINK: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=c3r8Iq_imfA&feature=youtu.be) outlining the timeline of the case and the dangers involved in Darryl’s case.
Monday, January 25, 2016: Darryl Fornatora and Matt Rigby take an American Airlines flight from Miami to Puerto Plata where they rent a car and head to their rental villa in nearby Cabarate.
Jan 28, 2017
Category: DR News |