‘I fell in love with toyboy with body of a god.. but now I’m broke and stranded’
When the handsome young stranger clicked “like” on one of her Facebook snaps, Claire Alcantara felt her heart flutter.
She had no idea then that pursuing her admirer would leave her stranded in the Dominican Republic and drained of her £40,000 life savings.
Claire, 46, admits she ignored the howls of protest from her three daughters to begin a cyber romance with student Franklin Alcantara – who is 12 years her junior.
And today she reveals how their marriage ended in disaster.
Speaking from the Caribbean shack she now calls home, she says: “I’m heartbroken and penniless.”
Claire was so besotted she even ditched her British passport for Irish citizenship to secure her beau a spousal visa and move him into her home in the West Midlands.
Two years ago she sold up and moved to his country, where she renovated Franklin’s family home.
But things soured when Franklin went missing. Claire says: “He told me he was moving to Punta Cana to build a hotel as part of his civil engineering course, but he actually went back to England.”
She says his family evicted her after she reported him to immigration.
The former teaching assistant is desperate to return to her hometown of Dudley, but says she can’t afford the flight. Now, she says her husband is “living illegally in the UK”.
It was in 2013 that they began messaging on Facebook. Claire says: “He was good looking and had the body of a god. Soon we were Skyping daily. I’d just come out of a terrible divorce so it felt exciting.”
After six months, she applied for Franklin to visit the UK on a tourist visa but the application was rejected.
So she flew to the Caribbean for a month, where she says she started spending money on his family home. Once she returned to the UK, the couple decided to marry.
She admits: “My daughters said, ‘don’t do it’.” But they married in the Dominican Republic in October 2013.
Her attempts to bring Franklin to the UK were repeatedly rejected by British immigration, so she applied for an Irish passport, the country of her father’s birth.
She says: “I was advised UK law would override EU law so I decided to give up my British citizenship so I was solely Irish – or an EU citizen living in the UK. He was granted a UK visa as spouse of an EU worker.”
In June 2014 she moved him into her home with her adult daughters, and opened a “joint account” in the Dominican Republic to fund the building of a flat on top of Franklin’s father’s house.
“I spent £15,000,” she says. In December 2017 they sold up in the UK and moved there for good.
Claire says she bought Franklin a £10,000 Jeep – and continued transferring cash to their “joint account”.
But after a series of rows, in March 2018 Claire contacted the British Embassy for advice about her rights and says she was told that their “joint” account was solely in his name. “I fainted with shock,” she says. “When I confronted Franklin, he claimed it was a misunderstanding.”
Days later, he announced plans to work away for three months. She says: “Soon three months became six. I started to get suspicious.”
In December 2018, she discovered he was living in England with another woman.
She has now found a “very low-paid” job in Santo Domingo and is staying with a new boyfriend, but is desperate to get home.
She says: “I spent all my money on Franklin and can’t afford the flight. I should never have sacrificed a thing for him.”
Back in the UK, Franklin reveals he is to be deported next month.
He says of his wife: “We had a good relationship in England, then Claire said we had to go to Dominican Republic because she couldn’t live with her daughter.
"I wanted to stay in England.
“We lived in a house with my dad. She was the one that said let’s do the floor, the window bars, the paint.
"It was about £6,000, not £15,000. Then she brought her daughter and they were always fighting.
“I lied and said I was going to Punta Cana. If I told her I was going to England, Claire would have said no because it was too cold.
"Yes, I had a new girlfriend, but she dumped me after Claire contacted her.”
He insisted Claire did not spend £40,000 on him – and says they both bought the car and he gave her £3,000 back as their relationship fell apart.
He also denied their joint account was solely in his name, saying: “She spent all the money, but not on me.”
He says he had a job and house in the UK: “She ruined everything."
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