KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A Kansas City family is desperately trying to free their son who has been arrested and jailed in the United Arab Emirates.
Thirty-one-year-old Matthew Novak has been accused of defaulting on $90,000 of loans in the Untied Arab Emirates, which is a serious criminal offense in that part of the world.
Novak lives in Cairo, Egypt. On Saturday, he was traveling home from a holiday in Thailand when he was arrested on a layover at the Abu Dhabi airport.
The Novak family says it is like a bad movie, a case of mistaken identity. They have only spoken to Matthew once since his was detained on Saturday, and they say he seemed scared and totally confused about what was going on.
“It’s just like you are burying a child that’s still living,” said his mother Caroline Novak.
She says it could be years before she sees or even talks to her son again, who has been charged with seven crimes in three countries for fraudulent loans. The Novak family says they are absolutely, 100 percent sure he did not do it.
Matthew is a teacher in Cairo, and has been teaching overseas for seven years, three of those years in Abu Dhabi.
Family says Matt’s passport was stolen there in 2010. He reported it to the embassy and was issued a new one. The stolen passport, the family believes, is what was used to steal Matt’s identity.
It is a walk in the dark for the Novak family who feel helpless so far away. They are relying on an attorney they found on the internet in Abu Dhabi whom they have never met.
It’s something that keeps Caroline up at night, wondering if she is doing the right things to help her son.
“What if he’s not a good one and what if he doesn’t know anything about this and then Matt’s stuck over there forever, then what?”
The attorney called from Abu Dhabi while FOX 4’s Shannon O’Brien was a the Novak’s house, with news that Matthew is being transferred to another jail, but other than that nothing had changed and he is okay.
Caroline says her son has dedicated his life to educating other children so far away, and describes him as an exceptional human being.
“He loved music, loved sports, he was an incredible violinist,” she told O’Brien
“Do you realize that you are talking about him in the past tense?” asked O’Brien
Caroline replied, “No, but I guess that is my biggest fear.”
If he’s tried on all seven charges, that means a separate trial for each, which is a daunting thought for the Novak family.
The family has set up a “Free Matt” Facebook page. There is also a crowdfunding page to help raise money for the Novak’s mounting legal fees.