Fame showed up for McCoy unexpectedly
This is not how Casey McCoy scripted the way he would become well known.
"I would it rather have been something heroic, like rescuing someone or doing something really good for someone," he said with a slight laugh. "I didn't really do anything. It was more that I had something done to me."
What McCoy meant was that he had been held under quarantine first and then house arrest in a third-world country because of massive confusion with his COVID testing and a language barrier.
Since finally returning to his home in Dell Rapids, SD, the Minneota native has become somewhat of a regional hero, so to speak.
"I'm not a hero, that's for sure," he insisted. "But if something good comes out of this, I want it to that I am a voice for how our American tax dollars are spent. We don't have a treaty with Togo. We should not be spending these significant amounts if we don't hold these countries to an expectation on how to treat others."
McCoy went on to point out how the United States gave Togo $13 million for education purposes, which was set for the building of schools. And the U.S. built Togo the largest power plant in their country.
"And 90 percent of their people are vaccinated because we gave them hundreds of thousands of vaccines," McCoy emphasized. "I understand that the Togo people definitely need help. They have only two tarred roads in the whole country. But the government there really needs to learn to appreciate what we are doing for them."
McCoy has a reason to be compassionate for the people of Togo, yet still be upset.
"It's not the country or the people," he said. "The people treated us very well. It's the system."
After attending the wedding of a friend in Togo, Africa with his girlfriend, Lacie Packard, McCoy was told he tested positive for COVID so he couldn't board a plane to return to the United States. His test was actually negative, but there was a mix-up when the numbers of his passport were transposed. He was quarantined in a rundown former hotel, treated rudely, and was not given adequate food and water.
Eventually, with the help of the U.S. Embassy, he was allowed to finish his quarantine at a house his friend rented in Togo so he could stay with Casey until he was allowed to return home.
Although hard to prove, it was likely that Togolese officials manipulated the testing in order to keep McCoy there to receive additional money and control from an American.
The Togolese prosecutor overseeing McCoy's situation then placed him under arrest because she claimed he had falsified documents and attempted to board the plane despite a positive test. McCoy actually signed the document after being told his test was negative because it was written in French, and he didn't have it translated because he was certain there would be no confusion.
He was placed under house arrest and was found guilty by a judge, although she suspended his six-month prison sentence. He did have to pay a fine, though.
The news of his plight spread like a fire in a drought-stricken forest. And with the news and photos of him online, McCoy became recognizable when he finally returned home recently.
McCoy, an insurance agent, also works part time for Air Madness, a trampoline park in Harrisburg, SD. When a woman from nearby Elkton came to book an after-prom party, Casey apologized for not returning her call, telling her he had been away. Before he finished his sentence, she asked if he was the one that was in Togo.
Another time McCoy was purchasing a popcorn machine for the trampoline park as Maxwell's Kitchen. Casey overheard the clerk talking about how she had to get a COVID test. McCoy told her, "Oh boy, good luck with that". Almost immediately she asked him if he was the guy on the news that was in Togo.
"I've always wanted to be successful," McCoy said. "Success doesn't mean anything unless you do something significant with it. If I wanted to be well known, I would just as soon it be something significant. If it helps someone else, it was significant."
When asked to describe the whole ordeal in one word, Lacie said "chaotic". Casey, without hesitating, said "rollercoaster."
Thankfully, that ride is over.