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In order to visit his father in Malaysia to collect a large sum of money owed his divorced mother a young American man and his friend embark upon an ill-fated, daring venture by stealing an airplane, two sailboats and two speedboats - none of which neither has any experience operating. (Note: Based upon first person participant’s account backed by court records for which I have rights to adapt.)
SYNOPSIS: What would you be willing to do to visit your father whom your mother had divorced years ago and attempt to, ultimately and unbeknown to your father, collect a large sum of money still owed her from the divorce settlement?
1998, JAMES, 20, at his fathers insistence and with his financial support, is urged to visit him in Malaysia. James enlists his friend CAL, 21, to accompany him on the daring and incredible death defying journey they embark upon. Pot smoking, beer drinking while in flight and sexual exploits engaged in only add to their disregard of the potential consequences of their actions. Not to mention both were on probation in Illinois. It’s to be a journey in which the FBI seems to always be one step behind in pursuit because of jurisdictional red tape once over Mexican air space, in spite of James’ mother keeping them informed along the way.
ACT ONE - One weekend night they steal an airplane from a small deserted Illinois airport. Cal did have some classroom experience but had never soloed. It was up to him to get the airplane in the air and once in the air, land it safely at several small US airports along the way to refuel.
After an uneventful night flying, smoking pot and drinking beer they reach Mexican air space crossing over undetected. Finally they land in Tampico, Mexico where they are forced to abandon the airplane to avoid customs. They stay in a Tampico hotel and the next day journey to Veracruz staying in another hotel, using a stolen credit card from Cal’s girlfriend at each. In Veracruz, low on cash, James’ father wires him five hundred dollars and in celebration of a false sense of success, James has his first brothel experience. Next day the boys depart by bus to Cancun.
During the night there they steal a speedboat from which they tow a stolen sailboat out to sea. But calamity strikes due to heavy seas and their inexperience. They are forced to release the sailboat letting it drift away and beach the speedboat. Stranded, they hitchhike to a small town, Chetumal, Mexico where James’ father wires another five hundred dollars.
ACT TWO - Their journey by bus then takes them to San Pedro Island where after dinner, dancing and a long night of dalliance with two female German tourists, they awake feeling on top of the world. The next day is spent smoking pot at the beach while scoping out women and boats. That night they steal the targeted speedboat to head for Belize City. But again calamity strikes when it runs out of gas, forcing the boys to swim to shore. After a long trek on foot through mangroves and jungle finally they cross into Belize.
Upon arriving in Belize City they steal another sailboat, motor and sail it along the coast past Guatemala until yet a third calamity strikes. During a violent storm the helm breaks and they are adrift until the boat capsizes forcing them to abandon it and swim ashore.
Once ashore they again hike through jungle until they encounter a group of natives who think at first they’re drug dealers. Once convinced they’re not, the natives lead them to a river. At the river the boys hitch a ride by river boat to the island of La Ceiba, Honduras. From there a short hop airplane ride takes
them to the mainland. Yet another bus ride through various small towns they finally reach Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Exhausted they check-in to a hotel where disaster awaits.
ACT THREE - Upon attempting to leave for dinner, James is stopped by the manager informing him that the credit card is stolen. Security takes custody of him. Cal is outside the hotel window waiting and James motions him to flee just as Honduras police arrive. James is arrested. Cal flees.
He’s allowed to inform his mother of his arrest and she in turn informs the FBI who arrange for his extradition to Miami. There US Marshal’s transfer him to Illinois where is he arraigned for trial in a Federal court. In court both the presiding judge and the FBI deemed the journey death defying and incredible simply because neither of the young men had any experience flying an airplane, piloting sailboats or speedboats on open water. Yet they made it from a Chicago suburb to Honduras without being killed or injured.
The judge, before passing sentence asks, “Whatever possessed you to think you could get to Malaysia from Chicago by small airplane and a sailboat from Central America? Why not take a regular flight from here?”
James’ only reply was he couldn’t get a passport due to previous encounters with the law as a youth. He pleads guilty, is sentenced to thirty-six months in a Kentucky Federal Prison, three years probation and fined $105,000 for theft of the airplane.
Twenty years later James is living in Florida with his girlfriend and their children. Cal remains a fugitive.
Note: True story backed by participant's own account and court records for which I have the rights.