Mark and Guate Living
category: Emilys Guatemala, Jims Guatemala

Hey there. Remember us?

I know I said that we were “done” with our blog, but some back story just came up that is SO AMAZING that I have to post it. As you may know, there is a large American expatriate crowd living in Antigua. Those of you that were with us in the early days of the blog might also remember Mark, who has his own blog at and occasionally commented on ours as well. Our relationship with him began on a bad footing when he posted some inflammatory comments on one of Emily’s posts (scroll down to the bottom of that post to read the comments; it’s a long one). We had a few rounds of emails with him, then decided it would be best to meet him in person to try to settle our differences. As it turns out, he was a very friendly and hospitable guy, and after having dinner with him and his family, we realized we’d merely had some sort of communications disconnect, and we became friends. Antigua is a small place, and during the remainder of our service we probably bumped into him a half dozen times more, including saying goodbye to him on the next-to-the-last day we were in Guatemala.

About a year after meeting Mark, we had the fun experience of spending a few days with Norm Kwalek, another of our readers, who decided to take a few days out of his vacation schedule to hang out with us. We had a fantastic time, and Norm even gave us a ride back to our village. Although I didn’t think much of it at the time, Norm mentioned that he’d met Mark a few days earlier (most blog readers follow several blogs at once) and that the guy was friendly enough, but there was something fishy about him. “I’ve seen a lot of stuff in my days as a union organizer,” Norm said. “A guy moves his entire family, wife and 10 kids, to Central America? On a whim? He’s running from something.”

MarkGuate.jpgSo, imagine my surprise this morning when emails started rolling in from our former blog readers, passing us links to various news sites proclaiming that Jeffrey Lynn Cassman had been arrested in Antigua and is about to be extradited to the US for mail fraud, securities fraud, skipping bail, and some other stuff. It seems that our buddy Mark was on Tennessee’s Most Wanted list, as well as having the attention of the Postal Inspection Service as well as the FBI. But a name change and dying your hair can only hide you for so long, I guess. Even in Guatemala.

Here is a link of all the newspaper articles about this guy for the last two years; it’s fascinating to follow his buildup of notoriety as a criminal. And here is one in Spanish, from the Prensa Libre.

It’s weird to think that we knew this guy, visited his house, had a pleasant dinner with his family, and carried on two years of communication with him. The police’s description of him is surprisingly accurate (devout catholic, homeschooled children, cigar and wine aficionado, businessman) and if we’d have KNOWN he was wanted and had read the police description, we could have picked him out easily. Maybe I should have thought twice when he asked that I remove the photo of him I posted on the blog after our dinner together? But I guess that is how it works: con artists get by with the holes in the information net. But interestingly, the (inter)net is getting tighter and tighter. I don’t really know what this means for society as whole, but it’s worth pondering.

To those of you that sent me emails, by the way, thanks… I never would have seen that as it passed through the news. Much like I knew the guy for almost two years, and never knew he was a fugitive.

Posted by: jfanjoy