DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- A U.S. schoolteacher working abroad has been arrested while transiting through the United Arab Emirates after someone fraudulently used his name to take out nearly $90,000 in loans in the Gulf Arab country, his mother said Thursday.
Matthew Novak, 31, a native of Kansas City, Missouri, was stopped Saturday at Abu Dhabi International Airport during a layover while traveling from Thailand to Egypt, his mother Carolyn Novak said.
Authorities arrested him over seven loans taken out in his name in several areas of the UAE, a seven-emirate federation on the Arabian Peninsula, she said.
Novak previously worked as a school teacher in Abu Dhabi from 2009 to 2012 before taking a teaching job in Thailand and later Cairo, his mother said. He lost his U.S. passport in Abu Dhabi, the Emirati capital, in 2010 and reported missing to both the U.S. Embassy and local police there before receiving a replacement, she said.
Carolyn Novak believes someone stole her son's passport and then used it to make the loans. Emirati officials declined to comment Thursday. The U.S. Embassy did not respond to a request for comment, though she said they had been working on her son's case.
"Given the circumstances, his spirits are good," Novak said. "He's adamant that he did not do this and truly believes we're going to sort it out."
The United Arab Emirates, home to glittering skylines, luxury malls and the world's tallest building, hosts U.S. military personnel now part of the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
While liberal compared to other nations in the Gulf, the Emirates considers defaulting on loans a criminal offense and incarcerates debtors to stop them from fleeing the country and to make them settle their accounts. As oil prices have dipped in recent months, some foreign workers in the region have found themselves out of a job and suddenly unable to make payments, effectively trapped overseas.
Cases like Matthew Novak, in which fraud is alleged, are far rarer. His mother said they've found a local lawyer to help assist him through the legal process.
"I'm hopeful that the charges will be dropped against him and that the nightmare will end," Carolyn Novak said. "But until he's actually back in Cairo or the U.S. ... I'm not going to feel safe or comfortable."