Toronto man 'scarred for life' in robbery at Cuban resort
BY CHRIS DOUCETTE, TORONTO SUN
FIRST POSTED: FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 09, 2016 06:17 PM EDT | UPDATED: FRIDAY,
SEPTEMBER 09, 2016 08:58 PM EDT
A violent robbery at a Cuban resort ended Paul Sampalean's dream
vacation before it even started.
The 33-year-old construction worker also had to pay a $3,000 hospital
bill before he could return to Toronto with a nasty gash on his head.
"He's scarred for life," Antonia Sampalean told the Toronto Sun on
Friday — hours before her brother was expected to arrive back in the city.
She said the Toronto resident enjoyed his first visit to Cuba last year
and decided to return to the popular vacation destination for Canadians.
"Obviously he won't be going back there — ever again," Antonia said.
Paul Sampalean landed in the communist country on Sept. 2 to learn his
luggage was lost.
"Air Transit told him to go wait in the lobby of his hotel and his
luggage would be dropped off," Antonia said, recalling her brother's
version of events.
She said Paul remembers chatting with locals in the lobby of Sol Sirenas
Coral, a four-star all-inclusive resort in Veradero.
"The locals tried to grab his wallet," Antonia said. "There were three
of them and he was alone, but he fought back.
"I wish he would have given them his wallet, but he's not like that,"
she said, adding her brother is about 5-foot-8 and 135 pounds.
Paul was knocked unconscious, but witnesses later helped him piece
together some of the ordeal.
"Hotel security staff intervened," Antonia said, adding the crooks took
off with the $100 or so Paul had in his wallet.
She said her brother thinks he may have fallen and hit his head. His
forehead was split open.
He was taken by ambulance to the hospital where medical personnel used a
mere four stitches to close his 13-centimetre cut. Antonia said her
brother is unsure what other tests were conducted during his two-day stay.
"But the hospital issued him a $3,000 dollar bill and threatened he'd be
sent to jail if he refused to pay," she alleged.
Her brother also told her that the initial police report allegedly
stated he was "found wandering in the streets of Varadero."
But Paul alleges that report mysteriously disappeared after four
witnesses provided statements noting "the ambulance was called directly
to the hotel," she said.
After the attack, Antonia said her brother was uncomfortable having a
large amount of cash on him, so she sought help from Global Affairs Canada.
Antonia sent used her credit card to send the government agency $3,100,
which included a $75 special consular fee. The money was forwarded to
consular officials in Cuba who then paid the hospital bill.
Paul's luggage finally arrived at the resort four days after the robbery.
Air Transat, Global Affairs Canada and the Cuba Tourist Board in Toronto
never responded to the Sun's request for comment.
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