On the Forgotten Russian Prisoner


Marc Fogel was the coach of the girl’s soft ball team at the Anglo-American School in Moscow until his arrest last summer. The team was named after the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Wasn’t too long ago that nobody ever heard anything about American citizens being held in Russia.  While our State Department was “always working behind the scenes to free them,” rarely was anyone freed until Trevor Reed.

Reed, a North Texan and former Marine security guard, was convicted in 2020 and sentenced to nine years in prison on charges of intentionally endangering the lives of police after a night of drinking. U.S. officials said  “the evidence was flimsy and preposterous.” Reed’s family had said he had begun suffering from tuberculosis in prison and had been denied medicine, It’s reasonable to assume he was released in a prisoner swap because he was ill.  He did look quite weak when appearing on TV during the exchange.

Since then, there has been an uproar as to why Old Joe wasn’t doing enough to free Britney Griner.   “Why was Brittney left behind?”

So it was announced this week that we are willing exchange the Russian arams dealer of death, currently doing 25 years for Brittney and the “former Marine” Paul Whelan.

Considering that no one ever heard about prisoner swaps with Russia, or even who was being held and on what charges, the uproar seemed quite unusual.  Especially since for years two other Americans were in Russian prisons and no one but their family members even knew their name.

Their names are Paul Whelan and Marc Fogel.

In December 2018, Whelan attended a wedding party in Moscow, and was arrested shortly thereafter. His arrest came in the wake of the arrest here of Maria Butina, a Russian national who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to act as an unregistered foreign agent of the Russian state during the 2016 US presidential elections.

Tit for Tat.

Whelan has been held despite repeatedly maintaining his innocence. He holds quadruple citizenship, from the United States, Canada, Ireland, and Britain.

Eh, why is that?

And he’s no angel.  He is a former Marine but was given a bad-conduct discharge from the Corps in 2008 for “attempted larceny, three specifications of dereliction of duty, making a false official statement, wrongfully using another’s social security number, as well as writing bad checks.

The media always refers to him as a “former Marine.”  Right.

It is Marc Fogel who somehow is the forgotten one.  No one mentions his name in a prisoner swap.

Marc Fogel has lived in six countries and taught overseas for 35 years, including stints in Mexico, Malaysia, Colombia, Oman and Venezuela.

Fogel, private school teacher sentenced to 14 years in Russia after being caught with medical marijuana has blasted Joe Biden’s attempts to free Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan – but not him.  Fogel, 61, penned a furious letter home to Pittsburgh from his hellish penal colony, writing: ‘Teachers are at least as important as bballers.”

Fogel had 17 grams of prescription marijuana in a contact lens case to treat pain following a knee replacement and spinal pain from surgery years ago.

But the drug is totally forbidden in Russia.

‘There’s a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach that Marc will be left behind,’ said Fogel’s wife, Jane, to the Washington Post on Wednesday.  And Fogel’s niece Ellen Keelan told CBS Pittsburgh: ‘I want people to understand this is a death sentence for my uncle. He is 61, he already has these health issues, and we’re talking about a maximum-security prison in Russia. We’re distraught, we’re beside ourselves. We did not see this coming. The only explanation is that this is political.’

He was arrested as he traveled to work at the $34,000-a-year Anglo-American School of Moscow, in exactly the same part of Sheremetyevo International Airport where Brittney Griner was pulled aside for a similar crime five months later.

Fogel planned to retire at the end of that academic year.

His family’s worries come after the White House confirmed it was working on a possible prisoner swap to free Griner and Paul Whelan, who was accused of being a spy in Russia and has been given a 16-year sentence.

Whelan also complained of not being treated the same way Griner was, and President Biden eventually gave his sister a call after she took to the media to complain.

Unlike Whelan and Griner, Fogel is not classified as ‘wrongly detained’ by the US.

His family hopes to achieve that designation, as it would escalate diplomatic attempts to free him.   But they say that so-far they’ve only been able to speak with mid-level diplomats who, while well-meaning, are unable to turbocharge the case the way Fogel’s family would like.

Fogel’s trial was a travesty of “justice.”

In June, Fogel was handed a stunning 14-year sentence by a Russian judge, who accused him of trying to bring marijuana into the country to sell to his students.

Fogel was accused of using his diplomatic status as a former member of the US Embassy in Moscow to potentially run a ‘drug smuggling route’ into Russia’s capital to sell to the school children.

All based on a medical marijuana for which he had a prescription in an amount small enough to fit in a contact lens case.

Now I know Marc Fogel isn’t a “former Marine” nor is he a back, female lesbian basketball player with a wife (who has made a million dollars a year playing ball in the off season in Russia for years) who gets a lot of media attention but seems to me that Marc Fogel deserves at least as much attention as these two.

He was carrying a very small amount of marijuana.  He and Brittaney were both stupid, especially in these times.  But it says more about America that Brittney and the “former Marine” get all the attention while nobody gives a rat’s ass about the 61 year old school teacher.


About toritto

I was born during year four of the reign of Emperor Tiberius Claudius on the outskirts of the empire in Brooklyn. I married my high school sweetheart, the girl I took to the prom and we were together for forty years until her passing in 2004. We had four kids together and buried two together. I had a successful career in Corporate America (never got rich but made a living) and traveled the world. I am currently retired in the Tampa Bay metro area and live alone. One of my daughters is close by and one within a morning’s drive. They call their pops everyday. I try to write poetry (not very well), and about family. Occasionally I will try a historical piece relating to politics. :-)
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6 Responses to On the Forgotten Russian Prisoner

  1. beetleypete says:

    This potential prisoner swap was mentioned on the BBC News. But not Fogel, this is the first I have heard about him.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Don Ostertag says:

    Never heard of Fogel. Why would anybody place themselves in harm’s way by trusting the Russians under Putin? O yes, in the case of the basketball player, it was money, money, money.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Jennie says:

    This is terrible!

    Liked by 1 person

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