The Canadian man fell in love with a beautiful Cuban woman on one of his trips to the island.
He lavished her with gifts and plenty of cash – sending anywhere from $400 to $2,000 a month.
One day, she shared exciting news. There was a bundle of joy on the way.
He sent more money, enough for her to buy a home.
Something, though, didn’t feel quite right.
A California-based private investigation agency with sleuths in Cuba confirmed the man’s suspicions. The Cuban woman lived with her real boyfriend – a Cuban man – in the home her Canadian paramour had financed, and the baby she was expecting was actually the Cuban man’s, not his.
“There are many people – men but also some women – who travel to Cuba, fall in love, but then they get suspicious,” said Fernando Alvarez, a licensed private investigator whose firm, Drakonx Investigations, gets plenty of requests from mainly Canadians, Americans and Spaniards to dig up information about the love interests they met while visiting Cuba who remained on the island.
“When I receive an infidelity case, 90 percent of the time the person [in Cuba] turns out to be cheating,” said Alvarez, who is 34 and came from Cuba about 10 years ago. “The reason they have a relationship with the foreigner is [either] immigration – they want to get out of Cuba – or money. They plan to stay in Cuba, but want to have a better life.”
Alvarez has sleuths working for him on the island, at their own peril, since private eye work is not legal in Cuba.
The investigators conduct surveillance of suspected cheaters and liars, following them and recording conversations when possible.
Canadians, whose nation has relations with Cuba and who long have accounted for a large chunk of tourists to the island – a million annually – are particularly vulnerable to the love trap.
The problem has reached such a critical point that Canada even launched a campaign in 2013 to warn its citizens about it, according to the Washington Post, which noted that a government study concluded that about 25 percent of the 700 fianceé visas issued each year to Cubans in Havana were based on scams.
The marriage fraud campaign featured a seven-minute video posted on the website of the Citizenship and Immigration Canada agency that shared the real-life stories of three Canadians who were dumped by foreign spouses – including a Cuban – after they obtained residence in Canada.
Privately run U.S. websites on travel to Cuba often also include warnings about untrue lovers.
Canada tightened immigration laws concerning marriages to foreigners “in part because of the high proportion of sham marriages emanating from Cuba, as well as the Dominican Republic,” noted the immigration guidelines website Immigroup.com.
The changes include requiring sponsored spouses to remain in a marriage for two years before they can acquire permanent resident status. If the couple breaks up before that, the migrant faces deportation. Canadians who have sponsored one spouse are prohibited from sponsoring a new one for five years.
Alvarez told Fox News Latino that other clients who seek a Cuba-related investigation include Cuban-Americans who send relatives money to start a business, and turn to Alvarez to make sure the funds are really being used for that purpose. There are also married people in Canada, the United States or Spain who want to know if a spouse traveling to Cuba for business or tourism is also partaking in extramarital activity.
“There was a Canadian male who went to Cuba, sometimes without his wife,” said Alvarez, whose firm was hired by the man’s wife. “We watched him and saw that he spent a week in a hotel with two Cuban females. He had a very good week.”
Alvarez stresses that desperation among Cubans is at the core of many of the scams.
“It doesn’t mean the people who do this are bad,” he said. “They’re hungry, they might make $20 a month, and they do what they can to survive.”
Alvarez cautions people traveling to the Caribbean nation to use common sense.
“There are many people who have met people in Cuba, fallen in love, gotten married and are very happy,” he said. “But you have to be very careful – not just in Cuba, but anywhere. Be very careful about requests to send money. If you want to help someone, that’s fine, but sending $100 a month is more than enough for a decent life [in Cuba]. Sending $500 means that person lives like a queen or king.”
“Use due diligence,” he told FNL. “Always check people out.”
Elizabeth Llorente is Senior Reporter for FoxNews.com, and can be reached at Elizabeth.Llorente@Foxnews.com. Follow her on Twitter @Liz_Llorente.