Though only 27, the Suriname-born Dutch citizen Bernio Jordan Enzo Verhagen already has a long rap-sheet, apparently ripping off several European & African soccer teams by having fake agents sell him as a professional player. His life as a grifter was going well as he arrived in Cartagena earlier this month and contracted with hotels, yachts and restaurants, using his created image as a European soccer star to gain confidence, and pretending to pay with fake electronic wire transfers that ‘might take a couple days to clear’ because they were international, he told the victims, multiple tourism providers in the Caribbean city.
Skipping town before victims could catch up with him, he took his act to Santa Marta, Colombia’s third largest city on the Atlantic coast, and also an attractive tourist destination. His scam was working on established businesses, reluctant to create a bad name for themselves by tangling with a celebrity—as Colombian airline Avianca recently learned by enraging Colombian TV sports commentator Carlos Antonio Vélez—but was brought to an abrupt halt when a group of prostitutes contracted by Verhagen demanded “Cash On Delivery.”
Police quickly appeared and had to save Verhagen from a lynching by the indignant crowd that the prostitutes had organized.
When Verhagen couldn’t come up with the cash, the prostitutes became hostile and called on a crowd of bystanders on Santa Marta’s upscale Rodadero beach to assist them in obtaining justice. Police quickly appeared and had to save Verhagen from a lynching by the indignant crowd that the prostitutes had organized.
When police took Verhagen into custody, they learned from Interpol that the culprit had already been convicted of fraud in Denmark and had been charged with the kidnapping of a Chilean,but had no active arrest warrants.
“He showed electronic receipts of the transaction, but it was always pending, and he explained that the money, because it was a weekend, would take up until Tuesday to reconcile because it was an international money order,” said Santa Marta’s police commander, Colonel Oscar Solarte.
The police indicated that eventually they had to release Verhagen because there were no formal charges pending against Verhagen, but Solarte issued a plea to any affected business to come forward and present a case so Verhagen could be charged and possibly detained.
As for the prostitutes, according to Colombian daily EL Tiempo, they got to keep Verhagen’s personal belongings that they had stripped from him during the altercation as compensation.
In Colombia, prostitution itself is not illegal, however any organizing or prostitutes or control of their activity, “pimping,” or procuring, is strictly illegal. Contracting a minor is a serious crime and will lead to prison time in Colombia for foreigners. Hotels and any establishment formally serving tourists are required by law to report suspicious activity.
Update: Verhagen Is In Custody
Colombia’s migration authorities detained Verhagen last Tuesday afternoon in a luxury apartment building Barranquilla. Even that property had been obtained through fraud, according to Colombian daily El Heraldo, that also reported that attorneys contracted to represent Verhagen also received fraudulent wire transfers. Verhagen was taken back into custody after The Netherlands issued a Red Notice for his capture. He is now being held in Cartagena, and will be processed for extradition to face charges for scams he perpetrated in Europe and Africa.