Boy made up tale of 4,000-mile trek

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The Independent Online
HE SAID his mother had been killed in Hurricane Mitch last November. He said he had trekked some 4,000 miles to New York to find his father. He said his father had promised to meet with him at La Guardia airport. And an entire city believed him.

Trouble is, most of the tale told by 13-year-old Edwin Daniel Sabillon turns out not to be true. His mother is still alive in Honduras. The father is not alive anywhere. A former resident of Miami, he found last year that he had Aids and returned to Honduras, where, last October, he died.

And the boy's incredible journey, or most of it anyway, never happened. Thus New York, a city not famed for sentimentality, finds it has been taken in,tricked by a Honduran boy barely into his teens. Those with red faces yesterday included reporters, this one among them, the entire police department, and the normally stern-hearted mayor, Rudolph Giuliani.

Not that the truth about Edwin is any less poignant. It is just not quite as he told it. The question now is what will become of him? For now, he is in foster care. The mayor's promises to overrule immigration rules that would normally classify him as an illegal alien are now in doubt, however.

The suckering of New York began last Sunday, when doe-eyed Edwin surfaced on a street in Upper Manhattan with just $24. He persuaded a taxi driver to take him to La Guardia where the reunion with his father was meant to take place. Most compelling of all was his description of his 37-day trek from Honduras.

By late Tuesday, the truth was unveiled by relatives. "I don't know why he did this," said his grandmother, Paula Vasquez Hernandez. "Maybe because he wants to live in the US."

It seems that Edwin was living with an aunt near Miami until last October and then returned to Honduras to live with Ms Hernandez. In March, he returned to his aunt's home. How he made that return journey is unclear. But it may indeed have been a solo journey that included an illegal crossing into the US.

Then, last weekend, the boy was reported missing by his aunt. The story of his journey picks up as he told it to the authorities in New York. He spun his hurricane yarn to patrons in a cafeteria, who made a collection to buy him a bus ticket to New York and the reunion, or so they imagined, with his long-lost father. And thus on Sunday, he reached the city.

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