Innocent US Navy Veteran Released from Thai Prison After 14 Months Behind Bars

October 10, 2019 Updated: October 12, 2019

A U.S. Navy veteran is now free after spending over a year in a maximum-security prison in Thailand for a crime he did not commit.

Derrick Keller was arrested in Bangkok and jailed without bail in August 2018 following accusations that he was the mastermind behind a Ponzi scheme.

Keller was charged with transnational organized crime, public cheating and fraud, and jointly committing public fraud.

His family feared he would end up spending decades behind bars as Americans facing serious charges in Thailand are rarely acquitted. According to the Thai Examiner, they had been told that, statistically, Thai courts find around 95 percent of foreigners accused of serious crimes guilty.

Navy veteran Derrick Keller with family
U.S. Navy veteran Derrick Keller with his family. (Courtesy of Derrick Keller’s family)

Keller was suspected of the crime because of acting work he did in a series of corporate videos for Eagle Gates Group Co. Ltd, which is under investigation for fraud. He argued that he had no knowledge of the inner-workings of the company and that his association with it was merely as a part-time actor.

“Despite providing the Thai government with requested documents to verify his innocence, the Thai government refuses to dismiss his case,” his wife, Tanya Keller, wrote in the description of an online petition launched to help the Navy vet win his freedom.

“Derrick has no criminal record in the United States or abroad and there is no evidence that he knowingly or intentionally participated in the charges against him,” she added.

Keller’s family appealed to U.S. politicians, including Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and John Cornyn (R-Texas).

“The US government’s response to his family’s appeals for assistance are consistently that they “cannot interfere in the Thai legal process,'” Tanya Keller said.

“They just won’t listen, and I don’t understand,” she said in an August interview with KHOU-11. “I do not understand why.”

Derrick Keller with family
U.S. Navy veteran Derrick Keller with his family. (Courtesy of Derrick Keller’s family)

Then, on Sept. 30, Keller was found not guilty.

His first attempt to leave the country hit a snag, according to Fox, as he was arrested for overstaying his visa.

Eventually, U.S. Embassy officials helped Keller clear customs and fly out of Bangkok and on to South Korea, where he was met by his wife and daughter, reported KHOU 11.

“Just landed in Texas safe and sound, back with his family. There are not enough words for how happy we feel,” his family posted Wednesday on a Facebook page about Keller’s struggle to secure his freedom.

“As a family, we are taking a few days to decompress and process our emotions. Derrick is looking forward to seeing his family, friends and supporters soon,” his family wrote. “Thank you for all your support and prayers.”

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