ST. LOUIS, MO (KMOX) – A local man finds himself stuck in China — unable to come home — because according to his lawyer his passport was confiscated by Chinese school officials trying to shake him down for money to get it back.
Craig Curless of Florissant was visiting China along with his wife Vicki and their two Chinese children adopted there earlier. Vicki teaches at the English Second Language Institute in Zhengzhou, capitol of the Henan province.
Attorney Brad Young says officials confiscated the entire family’s passports on April 26.
“At first they had their passports confiscated by some individuals who identified themselves as the Chinese PSB, or the Public Security Bureau,” Young said, “We later found out that wasn’t the case, and three of the four passports were returned after the U.S. Embassy got involved.”
Young says the U.S. Embassy determined that the Chinese Public Security Bureau (state police) did not confiscate the passports. But who took them is unclear.
Originally, Young claims, the school alleged that Craig was also teaching English — without a permit — which would be illegal in China.
“To the best of my knowledge that is not true,” Young said.
There are no allegations the couple was involved in any stealth missionary work, Young said.
“I do not believe that’s what’s going on,” Young said, “I was initially thinking that might be the case, but I don’t have any information that’s what’s occurring at the present time.”
For now, the whereabouts of Craig Curless’ passport is unknown, but Young has his suspicions.
“Namely, we think it’s the employer who has it and it appears that this is a well-known scheme in China when Americans are involved that you can confiscate passports and extract a ransom to get them returned,” Young said. “The high school were Vicki works also hinted that if they paid a fine then their passports could be returned.”
Young has been working with the U.S. Embassy to try to resolve the standoff. One option is for the husband to go to Beijing to get a new passport. But it’s a journey of a thousand miles, and he can’t travel by train or plane in China without a passport.
Craig Curless, 51, grew up in Florissant and attended McClure North high school. He met his wife Vicki, 46, when they were students at Southwest Missouri State University in the 1980s. Married for 25 years, the couple has two adopted children: Mikala, age 14, and Gianna, age 11. Craig works in marketing and the couple was living most recently in Springdale, Tennessee.
Craig is the son of Lester and Martha Curless who still live in Florissant. Martha Curless says she is praying the situation will get resolved. “I just want my son and his family to be able to come home,” she said.