Jonathan Nicola remains in custody in Canada after being arrested on charges of contravening the Immigration Refugee Protection Act. After spending the 2015-16 academic year presenting himself as a 17-year-old, Nicola has been exposed as a 29-year-old impostor from South Sudan, and now we know how officials determined he had cheated the system.
According to the Windsor Star, which first broke news of the scandal, Nicola was detained when he attempted to cross the Canadian border into Michigan. That attempted international travel led to further review of his identification, which had portrayed him as being born in 1998. While that was the information that allowed Nicola to earn a student visa that granted him access to Windsor education through 2017, further testing including fingerprinting determined that Nicola was actually born in South Sudan in 1986, as he had identified on a previous trip to the U.S.
The attention and uproar surrounding Nicola’s case inspired Canadian officials to keep him in detention for fear he is “a flight risk.”
While Nicola’s future remains very much in question, his now former teammates at Catholic Central continue to stand up for the man they knew as a fellow student athlete, and a teenager.
“He got a lot of character, genuine guy,” 17-year-old Catholic Central basketball player Ramkel Wal told the Star. “You know I feel for him right now. Free Johnny. I hope he gets out safe. I hope they’re taking care of him over there. People are going to have their opinions, but until they know the truth, right now people shouldn’t be saying stuff or bashing anybody.”
Added 19-year-old teammate Jojo Cimpeau: “He’s not a bad guy, man. All these conspiracies people are saying that he’s been doing sneaky stuff, it’s not true man. He’s a good guy, he came here for one thing and one thing only. He’s a good guy and great teammate.”