June 25, 2006
Bride left broke by alien husband
By MICHELE MANDEL
Cindy thought she had found her soulmate, the man of her dreams, a father to her young daughter.
The Toronto accountant had him met over the Internet, introduced by mutual friends. Theirs was a long distance relationship — Eduardo lived in Cuba where he was manager of a department store — but they spoke every day and she flew in often to visit him. When he proposed after seven months, Cindy truly believed their love was forever.
They married in Havana on Dec. 14, 2004. In their wedding photo, the dark and handsome groom hugs her close as the beautiful blonde bride beams with joy.
The 33-year-old sits alone in her East York apartment, barely able to glance at those photos of a mirage.
She spent the next 15 months filing all the paper work to bring her husband here. She admits to a few nagging doubts; she had heard the horror stories of marriage scams. He assured her that those cases involved Cubans who worked in the hotels in hopes of snaring vulnerable Canadian tourists. He was different. He really loved her and if she wanted, they could make a life together in Cuba.
But when Cindy actually considered that offer, Eduardo suddenly backpedalled. Her daughter would have to attend an international school in Havana, he said, and where would they get the expensive tuition? His argument made sense, and so she continued to sponsor him here, sending immigration proof of their marriage, photos of the wedding, evidence of their daily correspondence.
Approved at last, Eduardo arrived here March 10, and was promptly given a Canadian social insurance number, a health card and permanent residency.
Less than three months later, he was gone.
Three weeks ago, he pulled Cindy back into bed to cuddle before she left for work. It had not been an easy adjustment, she admits. He seemed cold and distant and constantly demanding. Why hadn't she completed his resume? Why was he finding it so difficult to get a job? Why wasn't she sending more money home to his mother in Cuba?
Still, Cindy assumed it was just a natural rough patch. When he kissed her goodbye that morning and told her he loved her, she believed things were getting better.
When she couldn't reach him through the day, something made her leave work early and rush home.
Eduardo had disappeared. She says her 30-year-old groom took his suitcase, clothes and every gift of jewelry and perfume he had ever given her. He turned their wedding photo face down and left her only way to reach him — his cellphone — behind.
There was no note, no explanation, nothing.
He not only abandoned her, but the scoundrel abandoned her daughter as well. He had always picked her up from the bus stop after school. But not this day. If Cindy hadn't come home early, her 10-year-old would have been left alone on the street.
“To say I was completely blindsided is an absolute understatement,” she says softly.
Cindy called her loving mother-in-law in Havana. “She was as cold as hell. They got what they wanted. Now he can sponsor his mom and whoever else he wants,” she says bitterly. “I'm positive it was all planned from the start.”
That became even more clear after she checked his cellphone records and discovered that Eduardo had been calling a Toronto number three times a day. It belongs to his “former” Cuban girlfriend who was recently sponsored here by her husband. “He played his game very well.”
She has since met many women scammed by foreigners looking for a ticket to Canada. After all, we make it so easy. Unlike many other countries that require that the marriage last three years before they will hand over a permanent residents' card, Canada gives the sponsored spouse immediate permanent status.
“Immigration were very sweet,” Cindy says. “They said he is a resident now. Regardless of what he did to get here, he has his card and there is nothing they can do.”
Every sympathetic government official offered the same reminder: she is still financially responsible for him.
Because the betrayal and the heartache are just initial blows. In the fine print of her sponsorship application, Cindy agreed that if he turns to any social assistance in the next three years, she is on the hook to repay the government in full — even if they have to garnish her wages.
This duped bride has already lost her entire life savings of $60,000 on this romance. “I don't have any money left to pay for his wonderful new life in Canada,” she worries. “I have been left with an empty heart, the inability to eat, the shock that the past 21/2 years of my life were a big lie, an empty bank account, and a daughter who is traumatized.”
Now she also faces the frightening prospect of being destitute, while he laughs all the way to the welfare lines.
“The law needs to change,” she insists. “Why should he still be protected and allowed to stay here when he clearly broke the only reason he was approved to live in Canada?”