British scientist jailed in Argentina after being 'duped' into drug smuggling by honey trap sting protests his innocence
Physics professor from Kidderminster says he has barely slept since conviction in Buenos Aires
Admits sending series of messages implying he was a cocaine smuggler, but says they were an 'ill-choice of joke'Psychological reports say Paul Frampton, 69, suffers from Asperger's and Narcissistic Personality Disorder
22:03 GMT, 8 December 2012
Each day begins the same as the last for Professor Paul Frampton. His alarm rings at 7.30am, he showers, eats cornflakes and, when he is meeting lawyers, dresses in a jaunty orange Herms tie and navy pinstripe suit that hangs off him after losing 20lb on his prison diet.
After a day emailing friends and writing physics papers from a small bedroom, he moves on to the roof terrace where he does 40 push-ups and 40 box squats, before bedtime at 11.30pm.
This is exactly how tomorrow will pan out – and indeed, the next 850-plus days. Because after 32 years as a celebrated physicist at an American university, 69-year-old Prof Frampton, from Kidderminster, is under house arrest at a friend’s Buenos Aires apartment after being found guilty of drug smuggling.
Paul Frampton said being incarcerated was dehumanising: ' It was like being an animal in a cage'. After 280 days in prison with chain-smoking cellmates, he was permitted to live out his sentence under house arrest
The apartment is a far cry from the cell he shared with 79 hardened criminals, but it is still his prison. Yet Prof Frampton’s only crimes, he says, are loneliness and naivety.
Thirteen months ago, he was seduced on an internet dating website by someone he believed was a beautiful Czech model. They planned to meet in Bolivia but when Frampton arrived, he was greeted by a man claiming to be the model’s friend.
This friend said she had left for a modelling assignment in Brussels and that Frampton should follow her there, via Buenos Aires – taking with him a suitcase that belonged to her.
In reality, the model was a happily married woman who knew nothing of the professor’s existence – and the online ‘lover’ was a drug trafficking gang who had filled the lining of the suitcase with bundles of cocaine concealed in gift wrap.
Though Frampton pleaded innocent during a three-day hearing last month, it took three judges just one hour to find him guilty and sentence him to four years and eight months, of which he will serve two years four months.
Denise Milani, a 36-year-old married woman born in the Czech Republic who now lives in Los Angeles. Until contacted by The Mail on Sunday after his arrest, she claims to have had no knowledge of Prof Frampton
After 280 days in custody in a prison with chain-smoking cellmates, he was permitted, because of a chronic lung condition, to live out the sentence under house arrest at the Buenos Aires apartment of an old friend from their days as Oxford University students.
Defence lawyers are currently working on an appeal, which will be submitted this week.
Speaking exclusively to The Mail on Sunday, Prof Frampton said: ‘I am still in a state of shock. I can’t believe I am a convicted felon. I am an innocent man. A physics professor. I am a scam victim. My only crime was being lonely.
‘I am so angry with myself, with what has happened. I feel so bad.
‘Prison was very dehumanising. It was like being an animal in a cage. Now, I’m confined to the flat and my friend’s family have adopted me. They are my support group.
‘But even after 40 weeks, it has an air of surreality, to wake up and realise where you are and that you can’t just go out and walk around.’
His ordeal began in November 2011 when he struck up a friendship on a dating website with someone he believed was model Denise Milani, a former Miss Bikini World from the Czech Republic.
After corresponding for 11 weeks, he was smitten and agreed to meet her in Bolivia where she said she was on a modelling assignment.
Though Denise Milani does exist, she is a 36-year-old married woman born in the Czech Republic who now lives in Los Angeles. Until contacted by The Mail on Sunday after his arrest, she claims to have had no knowledge of Prof Frampton. Yet at the time Frampton was convinced the relationship was genuine.
In January, he travelled from his North Carolina home to La Paz in Bolivia, where he was met by a man claiming to be Milani’s friend.
Frampton claims that this friend told him Milani had left for another modelling job in Brussels and was waiting for him there.
This friend also handed him the suitcase.
Professor Frampton, pictured with his ex-wife Anne-Marie. Two days after his arrest, he was sent to Villa Devoto Prison, a Buenos Aires jail famed for riots in 1978 that left 62 dead
Desperate to meet his new ‘girlfriend’, Frampton set out on a journey from Bolivia to Brussels, via Ezeiza International Airport in Buenos Aires, where he was told he would be sent an e-ticket by Milani.
Yet when it failed to appear after 44 hours, he tried to board a plane home to North Carolina – and was arrested when security officials discovered four pounds of cocaine in a false bottom in the suitcase he had checked in.
‘I would like to warn people of the evils of internet dating,’ says Frampton, who did not speak to his ‘lover’ beforehand. ‘I would advise internet daters to have a telephone conversation with the other person, preferably with a video link. There are so many criminals out there. I never expected to be a scam victim.’
Two days after his arrest, he was sent to Villa Devoto Prison, a Buenos Aires jail famed for riots in 1978 that left 62 dead.
‘Creativity kept me going,’ says Prof Frampton. ‘Every day I went to the small university centre in the prison and worked on physics, which helped me maintain my sanity.’
Prof Frampton's case is complicated by 27 messages he sent to a phone he believed to belong to Miss Milani, pictured, implying he was carrying drugs
And despite now being placed on unpaid
leave by North Carolina University, he adds: ‘I have ideas for eight
research projects, distributed between particle phenomenology and
theoretical cosmology. And I am going to learn Spanish.’
the stiff upper lip is a man in turmoil. Although he is now able to
concentrate on his research, he admits he has barely slept since his
Even if his appeal succeeds, it could take months for his sentence to be revoked.
In their ruling, the judges said they believed the unanswered messages were signs of mutual understanding between Frampton and Milani
His case is complicated by a series of
text messages he sent to a phone he believed to belong to Milani, while
at Ezeiza airport.
Bored and tired, he sent 27 messages implying he was
‘I wanted to string her along and sent
a series of text messages, some of which referred to “sniffer dogs” and
“coca”, and said, “This stuff is worth millions.”
‘These messages were purely to amuse her,’ he says.
had the bright idea, which I now bitterly regret, of mentioning drugs.
Frustrated because I had not met her, I chose to amuse her with an
ill-choice of joking text messages.
‘I had no idea there were drugs in the bag – I thought it was hers.’
He added: ‘Real drug mules would never talk about drugs via text message or email.’
But in their ruling, the judges said they believed the unanswered messages were signs of mutual understanding between Frampton and Milani.
Frampton’s defence team argue that CCTV showing long periods when he left the suitcase unattended proves his innocence.
Psychological reports conclude that Frampton suffers from some traits of Asperger’s syndrome as well as Narcissistic Personality Disorder, which impede him from distinguishing reality from fantasy.
His solicitor Eduardo Oderigo Snr. told The Mail on Sunday: ‘Paul Frampton is a very special man and there is not enough information to condemn him. It is hard to believe his story, but the judges need to see things through his eyes.
‘They need to look at the big picture and not just focus on the drugs in a suitcase and text messages.’
Prof Frampton added: ‘My life has been in the brilliant world of theoretical physics, not the sordid world of South American drugs traffickers. I simply wasn’t equipped mentally to be suspicious of people.
‘I live in a world of the physics of the universe where colleagues are truthful. And as incredible and incredulous as it might sound, this is the truth.’