World champion says Poland extradition motivated by revenge

Posted: Updated:
Roman Wroclawski working with Fort Campbell, Ky., US ARMY 5th Group Special Forces & Attachments. By Jennifer Thomas Roman Wroclawski working with Fort Campbell, Ky., US ARMY 5th Group Special Forces & Attachments. By Jennifer Thomas

PHOENIX -- He's an internationally recognized athlete who's helped train U.S. Olympians. But in a few days, the world champion wrestler may be forced back to Poland. Some believe the charges he's facing are motivated by revenge.

Roman Wroclawski is no stranger to fame. The former world champion Greco-Roman wrestler has won countless medals. He's even met the pope. For nearly 20 years, Phoenix has been his home.

As Wroclawski explains, "I have right here, grandchildren, children, everything, my life is right here. All I can say."

In fact, Wroclawski has put his decades of expertise to work, spending most of his time here at the American Pankration Studio in Mesa helping veterans.

Several law enforcement agencies nationwide now call upon him to help train their officers.

"He should be allowed to remain out of custody so he could keep doing this," said Assistant Federal Public Defender Dan Kaplan.

But that may not be possible as the Polish government is now closer than ever to extraditing him.

"The argument that we've been making, and unfortunately the courts have not accepted, is that the pieces don't all fit together," Kaplan said. "There are gaps."

According to court documents, Wroclawski is charged with embezzling money while in Poland between 1993 and 1994. Yet a warrant for his arrest wasn't issued until 2007. He spent eight months in the state prison in Florence.

"I really don't know, nobody ask me, 'Listen do you understand why we charge you?'" Wroclawski said.

Kaplan points out there are several discrepancies in the case. The statute of limitations has run out. And as far as how much money he's accused of embezzling, Kaplan said, "They never showed how much money was allegedly involved in U.S. dollars, which would determine whether it was punishable by more than a year under American law."

Wroclawski said it's what he wrote in his book that's creating so many problems.

"This book not too many pages but very dangerous pages," he said.

As Wroclawski's close friend explains, there is a belief the Polish government is out for revenge.

"A lot of people's names that were in this book, that ended up becoming powerful, powerful, political figures," Jeff Funicello said.

Wroclawski worries, "If I go to Poland, I never, ever, come back to U.S."

Kaplan is hopeful higher powers will intervene.

"So the next step is try to get the United States Supreme Court to take the case," he said.

It is Wroclawski's last hope, considering his latest appeal was just denied.

"I feel same as animal," he said. "If you catch animal in cage, you don't have choice, what kind of choice I have?"

"This is definitely unlike anything else I've dealt with," Kaplan said.

Right now, U.S. marshals are planning to take Wroclawski into custody on Jan. 16 where he'll await extradition to Poland.