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80-year-old veteran charged with trafficking meth was victim to elder fraud scheme, family says

80-year-old veteran charged with trafficking meth was victim to elder fraud scheme, family says
80-year-old veteran charged with trafficking meth was victim to elder fraud scheme, family says 04:16

FORT WORTH ( — On Thursday, Roy Payne enjoyed a walk with his wife of 50 years on what could be one of his last days of freedom.

The 80-year-old decorated Vietnam War veteran goes on trial in Fort Worth for drug trafficking charges next week. 

He has no previous criminal record, and both his family and attorney say he was caught up in a fraud scheme by international drug cartels. In February, the father-of-two with three grandchildren was arrested and charged with trafficking methamphetamine.

"It's completely crazy. Knowing his background being a Vietnam vet and the life he has's completely surprising and flabbergasting to me," his son, Darryl Payne, said.

He says if his father is guilty of anything, it's being an unwitting victim of scam artists who are increasingly using older Americans to smuggle drugs for them.

"He gets these random phone calls from scammers," Darryl Payne said. "He gets messages either through Facebook or WhatsApp."

Roy Payne
Roy Payne

Roy Payne served in the Air Force during the Vietnam War and, for 15 years after, as a flight engineer. Unbeknownst to his family, he recently started falling for dozens of scams asking for money in return for more money. 

"To my knowledge, he's handed over an awful lot of money," his son said.

And that led to higher levels of fraud. 

The 80-year-old was often told he won international lotteries and, earlier this year, was talked into flying to Mexico City to fill out paperwork before traveling to Japan to collect his winnings. 

But when he returned to the United States, Roy Payne was searched at DFW Airport, where authorities found seven pounds of meth hidden inside luggage. 

He was subsequently charged with drug trafficking and currently faces up to six-and-a-half years in prison when he appears for trial Monday.

"We believe it's a life sentence, that's no place for an 80-year-old," Darryl Payne said.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has been aware of elderly Americans, some as old as 97, who have been caught in the middle of a program to disrupt international drug trafficking rings.

Federal authorities will flag one-way tickets to trafficking hotspots, and Roy Payne's family says it's likely that when he went through DFW Airport, agents were ready to search and arrest him. 

When asked if there was any way his father knew he was transporting drugs, his son said absolutely not. "If he had any inkling that there was drugs, he would've never done it."

Earlier this week, former FBI Director William Webster was featured in a video warning that even he has been the target of an elderly fraud scam. 

However, the U.S. Attorney's Office seems confident with their evidence that Roy Payne knew what he was doing. 

"The U.S. Attorney's Office looks forward to proving this case in court," federal prosecutors wrote in a statement to CBS News Texas.

If prosecutors do have incriminating evidence against the decorated veteran, it will come as a surprise to his family, who says what happened to them should serve as a cautionary tale.

"Everyday, we get emails and texts that are all spam. Unfortunately, for our elderly folks, it's very hard to tell the difference between what's real and not real," Darryl Payne said. "I don't think these folks are guilty, and they don't deserve to be in jail right now."

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