ICE meant to capture drug lords. Did it snare duped older Americans instead?

After two decades in the military, after earning two master’s degrees and navigating a successful career as a corporate coach, Victor Stemberger seemed ready for a peaceful retirement. But he had a new venture in the works.

Mr. Stemberger, of Virginia, had a $10 million inheritance waiting for him, according to men claiming to be affiliated with the Nigerian Ministry of Finance. Through a dizzying web of more than 160 emails over the course of a year, Mr. Stemberger, then 76, somehow grew convinced.

The final step to collect his millions was a good-will gesture: He needed to embark on a whirlwind tour to several countries, stopping first in São Paulo, Brazil, to pick up a small package of gifts for government officials.

With that parcel tucked away safely in his luggage, Mr. Stemberger got ready to board a flight to Spain, the next leg of his trip.

His father has been in a Spanish prison since the police arrested him as he got off a plane in Madrid nearly two years ago and found more than five pounds of cocaine sewn into jackets in his luggage, according to court documents.

A Spanish court sentenced him last year to seven and a half years in prison.

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