Northern Californian Detained in Russia Talks about Experience

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Liana Randazzo and three other Americans went to Russia on Oct. 31 for an International Leadership Conference but when they arrived, she says it quickly felt like a bad Russian spy movie.

"There was a couple of times I was pretty sure we were being followed by people and people were listening," Randazzo said. "They had a case file that had photos from our second day there and we weren't taken in until our sixth day."

The group had been allowed to enter Russia on a tourist visa, but the Russian government apparently thought they were there for other reasons, and confronted them at the conference.

"Investigators, police officers and a TV crew showed up asking to see our passports and that is when the whole investigation started," Randazzo told FOX40.

The four were detained and underwent several hours of interrogation before they were eventually charged with improper use of their visas.

"It was widely publicized in Russia and a lot of propaganda and type of things, showing pictures of us doing camp songs and saying it was brain washing," Randazzo said.

The trip was becoming a nightmare Randazzo wasn't sure they were going to get out of. Their appointed council forced them to sign documents in Russian they couldn't read, and there was no one they could trust.

"We had two lawyers who didn't speak English we had a translator who was court appointed that we found out was friends with the prosecutors," Randazzo said.

Days later the four finally caught a break when the founder of the leadership conference, Eveny Velikhov, a well-known scientist and celebrity in Russia, flew in and spoke at their trial.

Randazzo and the others were allowed to return home with only a $400 fine, making her feel like this whole investigation was  really about something else.

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