Falsely accused Navy veteran released from Thai jail after one year

Michelle Dolge
October 10, 2019 - 5:25 pm
inside of a stark prison cell

photo credit: Darrin Klimek/Getty Images

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In August of 2018, Navy veteran Derrick Keller went on vacation to Thailand with his family.  

They came home; he did not.

For over a year, Keller was held in a maxium security Bankok prison, falsely accused of being a conspirator and mastermind in a Ponzi scheme.  His only crime was taking a job as an actor in a video produced by the company, which he had no idea was defrauding Thai out of millions of dollars.

On Sept. 30, after a month-long trial, Kelly was finally released - only to be detained again at the airport for overstaying his visa.  It took two more weeks of negotiations with the Embassy and lawyers to get him out, but Keller finally arrived back in his home state of Texas, Wednesday.

The chances that Keller would ever be released from the Thai jail and return home were infinitely small.  Nearly no Americans arrested in Thailand on serious crimes are ever found not guilty.  In fact, 95% of them are found guilty.

In 2015, Keller and his wife, Tanya, moved to China with their family so she could accept a prestigious dance instructor position at Shenzhen Dance Academy, according to KHOU.  Keller, who dabbled as an actor, took a job acting in corporate videos for a company, Eagle Gates Company.  He thought the company was legitimate, and never thought of it again.  That is, until he was arrested trying to leave Thailand on the family vacation.  Eagle Gates was a Ponzi scheme that had bilked customers out of millions of dollars.  Because Keller was in their videos, he was targeted as a conspirator.  Keller was removed from the plane by Thai authorities that day in August 2018, and his family did not see him again until just this week.  

Keller's family had pleaded with President Trump and local politicians in their home state of Texas to help free him, but to no avail.  The family told the Houston Chronicle just two weeks ago that they completely expected him to be found guilty.  The family and friends created a Change.org petition and Facebook page to push a social media campaign to free the Navy veteran, a Seabee who was stationed in Japan and Honduras. 

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