A violent robbery at a Cuban resort ended Paul Sampalean’s dream vacation before it even started.
The 33-year-old construction worker also had to pay a $3,000 hospital bill before he could return to Toronto with a nasty gash on his head.
“He’s scarred for life,” Antonia Sampalean told the Toronto Sun on Friday — hours before her brother was expected to arrive back in the city.
She said the Toronto resident enjoyed his first visit to Cuba last year and decided to return to the popular vacation destination for Canadians.
“Obviously he won’t be going back there — ever again,” Antonia said.
Paul Sampalean landed in the communist country on Sept. 2 to learn his luggage was lost.
“Air Transit told him to go wait in the lobby of his hotel and his luggage would be dropped off,” Antonia said, recalling her brother’s version of events.
She said Paul remembers chatting with locals in the lobby of Sol Sirenas Coral, a four-star all-inclusive resort in Veradero.
“The locals tried to grab his wallet,” Antonia said. “There were three of them and he was alone, but he fought back.
“I wish he would have given them his wallet, but he’s not like that,” she said, adding her brother is about 5-foot-8 and 135 pounds.
Paul was knocked unconscious, but witnesses later helped him piece together some of the ordeal.
“Hotel security staff intervened,” Antonia said, adding the crooks took off with the $100 or so Paul had in his wallet.
She said her brother thinks he may have fallen and hit his head. His forehead was split open.
He was taken by ambulance to the hospital where medical personnel used a mere four stitches to close his 13-centimetre cut. Antonia said her brother is unsure what other tests were conducted during his two-day stay.
“But the hospital issued him a $3,000 dollar bill and threatened he’d be sent to jail if he refused to pay,” she alleged.Another
Her brother also told her that the initial police report allegedly stated he was “found wandering in the streets of Varadero.”
But Paul alleges that report mysteriously disappeared after four witnesses provided statements noting “the ambulance was called directly to the hotel,” she said.
After the attack, Antonia said her brother was uncomfortable having a large amount of cash on him, so she sought help from Global Affairs Canada.
Antonia sent used her credit card to send the government agency $3,100, which included a $75 special consular fee. The money was forwarded to consular officials in Cuba who then paid the hospital bill.
Paul’s luggage finally arrived at the resort four days after the robbery.
Air Transat, Global Affairs Canada and the Cuba Tourist Board in Toronto never responded to the Sun’s request for comment.