In August 2012, I received a call from my father. We spoke about the Dodgers and the coming election and the Los Angeles heat wave when he casually said, “I’m going to Ghana tomorrow.”
“I’m meeting with an investor for our movie. He owns a gold mine and wants to get in the film business.”
I was accustomed to my father meeting with strange folks all over the world in his never-ending search for film funding. But Ghana? This seemed out of the ordinary.
“Who are you traveling with?”
“Myself. It’s a three-day trip. I’ll be back Monday.”
“Wait,” I said. “What do you know about this guy?”
“He sent me a prospectus via email. His family is in the gold and silver business. He’s legit.”
I quickly Googled “Ghana gold mine scam.” I scrolled through stories about extortion, wire fraud and kidnapping. One article told of an American businessman who was tortured and murdered in the town of Accra.
“Dad, what city in Ghana are you traveling to?”
“It’s called Accra,” he said.
My stomach dropped. I hung up the phone and scoured online travel advisories for Ghana. I called the US State Department and was transferred to a homeland security agent. The man listened as I told him about my father’s travel plans. After several minutes he calmly said, “If you want to see your father alive again, make sure he doesn’t get on that plane.”
My father, Igo Kantor, was a seasoned filmmaker who edited and produced dozens of films and television shows over a fifty-year career. Most people would think twice about believing someone who claimed to be from an African gold mining family but this was familiar territory for my dad. In 1981 he made a film called Kill and Kill Again partially funded by an African gold mine heir. In 1987, he produced another movie with African funding called Act of Piracy.
My father worked with some sketchy financial backers over the years. One notorious investor allegedly embezzled millions from an organized crime syndicate then fled to Mexico in a pickup truck hitched to an Airstream trailer. The abandoned trailer was found in the Chihuahuan Desert…