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These stories were published Friday, Jan. 3, 2003, in Vol. 3, No. 2
Jo Stuart
About us
Negotiations seem to be Villalobos strategy
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An e-mail from a fugitive financier Wednesday seems to be the first public salvo in an effort to reach a negotiated settlement with Costa Rican officials.

The messages, the first since the middle of October, has rallied investors who support him and gave them new hope that they would recover the funds that the man, Luis Enrique Villalobos Camacho, owes them, perhaps as much as $1 billion.

Some on Internet discussion groups already are pushing the idea that a political settlement would enable Villalobos to return to his business here where he paid investors up to 3 percent per month.

An analysis on the news

Those who support him generally discount judicial allegations of fraud and money laundering as trumped up charges spawned by inept prosecutors. The supportive investors blame jealousy of local bank officials or perhaps vindictiveness on the part of President Abel Pacheco for the current situation.

Some investors are known to be working with some of Villalobos’ many lawyers to assist in his defense.

Villalobos scared some of his investors with the e-mail when he told them that if he went to jail none of them would get any money returned. However, he did not say that if he did not go to jail he would return the money.

Some court officials and lawyers not in Villalobos’ corner believe that he was engaged in a ponzi and money laundering scheme, but many investors are not accepting this explanation on how he could pay such generous interest each month at his Mall San Pedro location. Villalobos himself, in his e-mail, denied involvement with money laundering or narcotrafficking.

He also claimed in his e-mail that financial returns of 50 percent a year were typical for local credit card companies.

Villalobos occupies a saint-like status in his followers. Many have never questioned him even when he has not paid interest on money 

Some are not happy 
with our reward offer

he borrowed since September. Villalobos and
his lawyers most likely will use this loyalty to help pressure Costa Rica officials to seek a negotiated settlement.

Such a settlement does not necessarily mean that Villalobos will be back in business. Current international financial constrictions in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States weigh heavily against informal operations such as that of Villalobos.

Villalobos, 62,  certainly would want to negotiate a plea bargain to a minor charge, perhaps that of irregular lending and perhaps pay a fine to the government. Then, if he chose, he could treat any shortages in funds as a straight business failure, file what amounts to a bankruptcy case and pay off his investors at a rate of a few cents on the dollar, if at all.

The alternative are a fraud charge and a money laundering charge now hanging over his head via an international arrest warrant. Conviction on these charges could mean he spends the rest of his life in prison.

Unfortunately for Villalobos most of his former clients are North Americans and carry little weight with Costa Rican politicians. 

There also is the matter of tax withholdings that Villalobos never deducted when he paid his investors each month. And investors themselves face possible investigation here and in their home country for failing to report income. Presumably the tax aspect also will be part of any negotiations.

A number of investors who contacted A.M. Costa Rica seem to have little regard or interest in the Costa Rica justice system. Nor do they care that some money frozen by prosecutors certainly was money earned illegally by at least several high-profile investors. They are more focused on their own money and the possibility of recovering it.

Villalobos, a superb public relations practitioner, touched the right buttons in his e-mail.

The worth of a column is in eye of the reader
It is the end of the year, and it seems proper to take stock of the past year. I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, although I do try not to make the same mistakes I did in the closing year.

In the year and a half I have been writing this column I have received some wonderfully supportive letters from readers half way around the world. It is difficult to over express how good these letters make me feel and how encouraging they are. I have, however, received some pretty critical letters. I would like to acknowledge those, too. 

Reading letters, both from those who find value and those who find fault with my views, makes me realize that not only is beauty in the eye of the beholder. So, too, is the validity of the written word. 

In response to my column on problems in paradise, I got a number of letters from people recounting their own difficulties living here. But I also received a letter from Juan of Costa Rica who told me bluntly, to go back home if I was going to criticize his country. He then enumerated all the things that were wrong about the United States as perceived by others. I couldn’t argue with that. 

Joe, also of Costa Rica, was disgusted with my column about restaurants when so many Ticos go hungry. I wasn’t sure whether he was just angry that I wrote about it or the fact that I dined out at all. 

Leon Leonowicz is simply disgusted with just about everything I have had to say on any subject. His letter is in the letters section. He was indeed right that I don’t get around much any more and do not know many Ticos. He has married into a Costa Rican family. I live alone. 

I can only write about what I know, and let me say here, I am not a reporter, I write a column. As some of you have noticed, I am a social liberal and very opinionated. I am also of the firm belief that war is not a lasting solution to any problem.

Which brings me to Naomi of Ipswitch, Mass., who scolded me for complaining about paying my taxes. I have happily paid my taxes over the years. (Some years I even paid more taxes than General Motors.) I always hope my taxes are going to help the less fortunate or to rebuild the infrastructure of my country. Like Naomi, I lament it when so much of my taxes go to support weapons of mass destruction. I also

Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

don’t believe I should pay taxes that I don’t owe. (Am I beginning to sound a little defensive on this subject?) 

Someone (I’m sorry I lost the name) said that I was jumping the gun when I accused Al Qaeda of the attack in Bali. He is absolutely right. That was an uninformed assumption on my part. I should have said terrorists. 

I received many letters about my Christmas Carol to Costa Rica. One was a nice one from Silvia, a Costa Rican living in Texas who hopes one day to return. I received many from other Gringos and expats saying I put my finger on many of the reasons why they came here and why they love it here. 

I also got letters telling me I was seeing the world through rose-colored glasses and blind to all the corruption and misery here. To some extent, I am, but I also choose not to write about it. The news section of the paper can do that. 

Some years ago La Nación ran an article on some research into why some married people stay married and others don’t. The conclusion of the study was that the couples who had more positive than negative things to say about their partners were more apt to stay together than those who could bring to mind more complaints. 

Very often studies like this one just put a scientific stamp on the obvious. The study has stayed in my mind because, of course, those responses apply to just about everything we choose in life, whether it is a job, or where we live. Some people have no choice and find some comfort in griping, 

For those who can choose, one can probably predict that those who can enumerate what they don’t like about Costa Rica more readily than they can than what they like, will soon leave. As long as I have a choice, I will stay here and continue to write this column (thanks to Jay Brodell, the editor of A.M. Costa Rica). It is nice to know you are out there whether you agree or disagree with me.

Peace, love and health to all of you in the New Year.

More Jo Stuart: HERE! 
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U.S. dolphin decision enrages environmentalists
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Bush administration has infuriated environmentalists by opening to Mexico the large American market for tuna fish. 

The U.S. Commerce Department ruled Tuesday that Mexican tuna can now be sold in the United States with the "dolphin safe" label favored by consumers. The ruling says Mexican fishermen targeting and encircling dolphins with nets to catch the tuna that often accompany the dolphins poses no significant threat to the intelligent mammals. 

The ruling says observers on the fishing boats of Mexico and other Latin American nations must certify that no dolphins were killed or seriously injured by the nets. The observers are to be posted on the ships by the fishermen's' countries. 

The ruling infuriated environmentalists, who say the observers are likely to be bribed to look the 

other way. David Phillips of the Earth Island Institute, accuses the Bush administration of "selling out dolphins to reward Mexican tuna millionaires." He says this is "clearly illegal" and will be challenged in court. 

Kitty Block of the U.S. Humane Society calls the Bush administration decision "unconscionable." 

Mexico and the United States have been at odds for years over whether Mexican fishing causes harm to dolphins. Mexico has signaled that if it does not get wider access to the U.S. tuna market, it may pull out of the international dolphin protection program altogether. 

Under an old definition, any tuna caught by targeting dolphins was automatically barred from bearing the dolphin-friendly label on cans of tuna sold in the United States. Without that label, foreign importers say they cannot compete in U.S. markets and have stayed away.

Feds want airlines
to list passengers

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — International air and ocean carriers must soon provide complete lists of the passengers on planes or vessels arriving in or departing the United States. The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service announced the new requirement Tuesday, but said it will not become effective until sometime later in the year.

The announcement says the carriers must provide detailed passenger manifests in electronic form as a requirement of the Enhanced Border Security and Visa Entry Reform Act of 2002. The legislation was passed in the aftermath of the 2001 attacks on the United States, when authorities recognized that the terrorists had exploited immigration laws to enter the country without hindrance.

The new rule is still under review, but as currently proposed, passenger carriers would be required to provide each traveler's name, address, birth date, citizenship, sex and passport and visa information.

Tax revolt brews
in anti-Chavez war

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

CARACAS, Venezuela — The opposition has added a tax revolt to a month-long general strike that has shut down the country's vital oil industry. 

Strike leaders made the announcement Thursday on local television as they urged people to stop paying taxes as part of a civil disobedience campaign. The opposition called for the tax revolt to pressure President Hugo Chavez to resign and call early elections. The Venezuelan leader refuses to step down. 

Since the walkout started December second, President Chavez has fired dissident executives from state-run Petroleos de Venezuela and ordered troops to take over idle oil tankers. 

Before the general strike began, Venezuela was the world's fifth-largest oil exporter and a key U.S. supplier. The work stoppage has cut Venezuelan oil production by about 90 percent, forcing the country to import fuel for domestic use. 

The walkout also has put upward pressure on world oil prices. 

The Organization of American States has been mediating talks between the Chavez government and its opponents. The negotiations were resuming Thursday evening after a break for the New Year holiday. 

Two Indian leaders
to get Quito jobs

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

QUITO, Ecuador — Ecuadorean President-elect Lucio Gutierrez has named two influential native Indian leaders to head cabinet positions when he takes office Jan. 15.

The incoming president Monday appointed congresswoman Nica Pacari to the post of foreign minister, while former lawmaker Luis Macas was named agriculture minister.

Gutierrez won the presidency several weeks ago with the backing of several indigenous groups.  In January, 2000, Gutierrez led several disgruntled army officers and 5,000 Indian protesters in a coup that toppled the government of then-President Jamil Mahuad. 

A military government set up in the aftermath of the coup was short-lived.

Da Silva meeting
with foreign chiefs

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

BRASILIA, Brazil — Leftist President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has spent his first full day in office meeting with visiting foreign leaders to discuss policy priorities for his administration, and other issues. 

President da Silva had breakfast Thursday here with Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, whose government is trying to break a month-long general strike crippling that country's key oil sector. 

The Brazilian leader also met with Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson at the Planalto presidential palace and was scheduled to have dinner with Cuban President Fidel Castro. 

Da Silva was inaugurated Wednesday, becoming Brazil's first elected leftist leader. He pledges to fight hunger, create jobs and unite the countries of South America for common goals. 

In his inaugural address, the 57-year-old president cited his own childhood struggle against poverty. Choking back tears, he vowed to ease the burden of 50 million Brazilians still living in poverty, but said it will take time to fulfill that promise. 

Brazil is South America's largest economy but is grappling with rising inflation and a $260 billion debt. The national currency, the real, lost 40 percent of its value last year amid investor concerns that President da Silva will abandon reforms pursued by his predecessor, Fernando Henrique Cardoso. 

Da Silva says he will honor Brazil's financial commitments and maintain fiscal stability.

Stock market has
big first New Year day 

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

NEW YORK, N.Y. — Wall Street greeted the first trading day of 2003 with a triple-digit rally. 

When the stock market closed on Tuesday, it marked the end of the first three-year losing streak since the period between 1939 and 1941. So Thursday's news that the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 8,607, up 265 points, is triggering many smiles on Wall Street.

Analysts say the rally can be attributed to good news in manufacturing. After three months of steady decline, the index of manufacturing business conditions reached 54.7 in December, up from 49.2 in November. 

Norbert Ore, the chairman of the Institute for Supply Management, which compiles the index, says the news bodes well for the New Year. 

Some analysts, however, are not ready to celebrate. Andrew Schwarz, of the market analysis firm AGS Specialist Partners, is concerned that the rally is simply the so-called January effect in action. 

19 newspeople died
working in 2002

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

NEW YORK, N.Y. — A media watchdog group says 19 journalists worldwide were killed while doing their jobs in 2002, the lowest number since the group began recording such deaths in 1985.

A report released Thursday by the group says one factor in the decreasing number of journalists' deaths is due to a decline in world conflicts. The report cited 1994 as an example, when 66 journalists were targeted for their work while civil wars raged in Algeria, Bosnia, and Rwanda. 
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Investors urge that $500 reward be eliminated
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Suggestions on several Internet discussion lists led to a flurry of letters to A.M. Costa Rica Thursday. Most writers wanted the newspaper to discontinue the $500 reward it has posted for anyone who provides information leading to the arrest of fugitive financier Luis Enrique Villalobos Camacho.

Nearly all those opposing the weeks-old reward offer appear to be investors in the defunct Villalobos high-interest operation that closed its doors Oct. 14.

The flurry of letters was believed prompted by an e-mail early Thursday from John Manners in Costa Rica to several Internet discussion lists. He said recipients should contact the newspaper to ask that the reward be discontinued.

Manners was responding to a message sent to and published by A.M. Costa Rica Thursday from Villalobos, who declared his innocence of any wrongdoing. He is being sought internationally to answer charges of fraud and money laundering.

Some writers simply copied the contents of their letter, but others wrote long, thoughtful rationales as to why the reward might hinder resolution of the Villalobos matter.

However, former Florida resident Bill McWade wrote an open letter to Villalobos saying that the default was forcing him onto the street to live.

A number of readers questioned the involvement of a newspaper in matters such as the one with 

Villalobos. To post such a reward was to be biased, some said.

At the heart of some letters was the belief that the newspaper should work instead to cause Costa Rica officials to end their criminal investigation of Villalobos so that he may return to paying them from 2.8 to 3 percent a month.

However, Charles Hobbs of New York in his letter bet Villalobos $10,000 that he would not show the books of his business to employees of a reputable, major  U.S. newspaper for confirmation that the money exists. Villalobos owes his creditors about $1 billion, according to past accounts, but he discounted such numbers in his latest e-mail.

A.M. Costa Rica publishes the letters that carried even minimal identification below.

Editor Jay Brodell defended the role of the newspaper in encouraging people to cooperate with police agencies in apprehending Villalobos. He said that the $500 reward, a public service, would stand as will one for fugitive Louis Milanes, who closed his Savings Unlimited and fled the weekend of Nov. 22. 

Brodell also said that the Christmas and New Year’s holidays has prevented the newspaper from setting up a bank account to accept donations to increase the reward. He said he would take steps to do so today.

Some who wrote letters said the $500 reward was paltry. But another said he would not turn in Villalobos even for $100,000.

Mountains of letters on Villalobos
Enrique ignores
cries of hardship

Dear A.M. Costas Rica:

Respectfully Enrique, you pledged that the money that your friends put into your hands would always be safe and secure. 

Your detractors say that we were foolish to believe you. I disagree. However, in the event that you face prosecution or die and do not return investments made by "your friends," then surely Enrique, you would be a scoundrel. "Your friends," would be victimized as a result of YOUR decision, YOUR action or lack of response to our plight today. 

You have time to do the right thing. We stand loyal, awaiting your decision, your action, demonstrating that the commitment that you made is eternal, despite the situations that you must respond to.

Unreasonable, to threaten friends, that if you die that they can expect to receive none of their investment back. This statement is mean-spirited, hurtful, and spiteful and minimizes the respect that your friends have for you, a spiritual leader. Even Christ died before He resurrected three days later. You didn't think that you would go on forever as a mortal man, did you, my friend?

We all face adversity in life, Enrique. It's how we respond to the challenges, this is how you, how I and all men will be judged.

If your intention is to ignore the cries of misery and hardship and cast those who believe in you into Oblivion, then Enrique, by your hand alone, you will convince the world that you were all along, a fraud. How else could you be described, other than on the basis of how you take charge of this dilemma?

Last month, I lost my residence, my home furnishings and my car. Today, I live with my sister. Alas! I am disabled. I cannot find a job. I cannot stay with Gerry for long. She is family. However, this is one burden that she is woefully unprepared to respond to with any degree of permanence. She is in fact, not her brother's keeper.

I can't move in with my uncle or brother, former wife or son, for I recommended that they know you as well. These loved ones are in a despicable situation, since I explained that they could trust you. Today, I loathe myself as a result of that decision.

In a short while, I have to abandon Ger's home and seek shelter on the streets. Hmm. What an oxymoron don't you think, ole' friend?

Enrique, today it's your turn to stand up and be a righteous man. The God that you believe in and taught about, will not abandon you, as long as you do, "The Right Thing." His will be done. He does however, expect Enrique to honor his commitments.

Do the right thing, Enrique. If you don't, the blood of thousands be on your hands. Your will be done.  

Bill McWade

He’ll find another paper

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

This letter is meant for print in the A.M Costa Rica, As of late it seems that you have taken a position in the Villalobos case. I do remember you writing somewhere that you wanted to be an objective newsman. The wanted poster and the reward shows only one thing. Rembering also editorials about we should contact the IRS, etc. They are only meant to rile readers and increase your viewership.

There has been many rumors circulating that you worked for the Tico Times and had a hand in the articles written over the past years on the Villalobos case. Can you clear these rumors up?

I can say one thing . I have let my Tico Times subsciption lapse which I had for many years. The only reason I at all read your publication is so I can get timely information . As soon as I can get another timely source, I will not be reading your paper any more. For one simple reason. I am loyal to my friend .

Homewood Dell

EDITOR’S NOTE: Editor James Brodell worked from September 2000 until April 2001 as general manager of The Tico Times. In that capacity he supervised all departments except the newsroom, which was the sole province of Dery Dyer, the owner.  During his time there, Brodell sold advertising to the Villalobos operation, but he had no role in the Keith Nash stories that appeared after he left the newspaper.

Our action is ridiculous

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

We, the readers and former readers of A.M. Costa Rica, respectfully request that your online publication remove immediately your unwarranted notice of reward for the person of Luis Enrique [Villalobos] Camacho. The overwhelming number of his creditors continue, as always, to have full faith and confidence in his worthiness as a businessman and human being, and reject your approach in a public forum to circumvent the wishes of the vast majority. We also question your intent in this most ridiculous action, and your standing as an independent news provider. Please remove this short sighted and unwarranted notice immediately.  

Salvador Acosta 
Costa Rica

We are capitalizing on it

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Subject: Villalobos bounty 

Since when does a newspaper get into the business of putting a bounty out on someone's head? The $500. offered by you for information leading to the detention of Luis Villalobos only shows that you are not in the news publishing business, but only out to capitalize this whole affair for your own notoriety. Just another rag.  

Barry Horton

It makes us look biased

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Can you please remove the "Wanted Poster " for Villalobos? The guy is in a jam with The CR government as it is and this makes you look biased . Leave the "Wanted Poster" for Milanes because he, like a thief, simply ran off with other peoples' money.

Just my 2 cents worth on the subject. Keep up the good work.

Pete Walters

We tried to convict him

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

You have tried to convict him by popular opinion. Please do not continue to make fools of your paper and your self. The prosecutor has no basis in law to proceed the way he is. He has no right to interfer with the right to contract. This looks like political posturing to me.  

Thomas Weathers

There’s egg on our face

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

PLEASE. Your reward looks so silly and trite. Stick to the "NEWS." This is egg on your face, and it appears you’re ready to lynch EV. Stay the hell out of jumping in the same oxcart as the CR Gov! REMOVE the stupid ad NOW!! You may print this and use my name if you like.  

George Horly 

He is not common criminal

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

It is time for you to remove your offer of reward for Enrique Villalobos as though he were a common criminal. I wrote to you before and you still don't seem to get it! You still talk about Enrique owing Keith Nash $1,000,000. Keith enjoyed the benefit of receiving a nice monthly interest income — which he used. Investments with Villalobos would not compound when the interest is taken. Keith was not saving for his "old age" as he was already old when he invested. He just wanted to enjoy his "old age" and that is what he did. As I reported to you before, this case was blown way out of proportion by people, including you, who wanted to benefit from controversy.  

Bill and Lois Quick

Another for removal

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Please remove the ridiculous $500 reward for tracking down Enrique Villalobos !  

Eric Overton

The doctor’s orders

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

You really must be very unpleasant people to offer and publish this reward for Sr. Villalobos!  

Peter Nichols MD

He’s not a fugitive

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I would ask that you remove the $500 reward for info. regarding to the capture of Enrique Villalobos now that he has communicated with your paper. Also, it is not necessary to put his face on your paper as a fugitive when he is only wanted for questioning. I hope you will consider my request. I do read A.M. Costa Rica almost everyday, and I am a former resident of that country but now reside in the States. Thank you for your consideration.  

Roberto Carpenter

We look biased again

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Please remove your ridiculous "Wanted" ad from your publication. It makes it look like you are extremely biased, which is not the proper function of a newspaper. The function of a newspaper should be to inform, and not to crusade against someone who has not been convicted of any crime. Thank you. 

William Thorkelson
Says reward is tiny

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I have been following the story with interest. If this guy is worth so much money why have you only offered $500. That is really not very much money, and I wouldn't even bother to look for such a small amount. Sounds like you just want to give the guy a hard time. Why don't you do something more constructive.  

W. Lane Tarleton

EDITOR’S NOTE: We will accept donations to the reward fund.

She adds her voice

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I want to add my voice to those who are asking you to remove the reward for the arrest of Sr. Villalobos. He seems to be sincerely trying to communicate with his lenders — and if he's detained here, all this will just drag on even longer. There are plenty of us who don't have much time, financially speaking — not to mention the hardest hit, of course, who are flat-out desperate. I feel strongly that your best efforts should be directed at generating a fund for the needy, not "wasting" money on some bounty-hunter. 

Sandra Shaw


We should seek truce

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Why don't you start pushing for a truce and a garantee from the government to give D.E.V. time and safety to settle things. Hell, Iraq has gotten more grace and space than Villalobos, and all he has done is paid people money before Costa Rica started "helping."

They can't run a 100-colone toll booth let alone something profitable. 

Be Collin Powell, not Dick Cheney! Think of the loyal readership and advertisers you'd have then!  

Will Miller 

In three languages

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Remove that supid poster please S.V.P.Enlevez cette rédicule bannière. Por favor quitte esta stupida photographia de don Enrique.  

Richard Lecavalier

He deserves better

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Do me a favor and please remove the wanted poster of Enrique Villalobos. Especially since he's sent you a letter and desires to have your paper used as a tool to communicate with the world. He deserves better treatment than this.  

Chuck Carroll

Reward is unworthy

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

This is unworthy of your publication, particularly since Enrique chose your publication to spread his message this morning. Please withdraw this "wanted poster."

Norma Latouf

Our reward is stupid

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I am agreeing with John Manners: I quote "In light of Done Enrique's statement, and the way it mirrors our feelings, I also feel that this ridiculous "REWARD POSTING" needs to be removed. It is stupid, it is SUBJECTIVE and it is UNPROFESSIONAL. In addition I find it very unbecoming for a TRUE NEWSMAN which Jay proclaims he is. And let us NOT forget that A.M. Costa Rica's membership REALLY surged because of Don Enrique and all of his investors!" I didn't know about A.M. Costa Rica until the Villalobos charade started. Please remove the "REWARD POSTING!" 

Gary Smith 

She seconds the motion

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

ridiculous "REWARD POSTING" needs to be removed.

It is stupid, it is SUBJECTIVE and it is UNPROFESSIONAL. In addition I find it very unbecoming for a TRUE NEWSMAN which Jay proclaims he is. And let us NOT forget that A.M. Costa Rica's membership REALLY surged because of Don Enrique and all of his Investors!  

Carmen Mendez

And here’s a third

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

ridiculous "REWARD POSTING" needs to be removed.

It is stupid, it is SUBJECTIVE and it is UNPROFESSIONAL. In addition I find it very unbecoming for a TRUE NEWSMAN which Jay proclaims he is. And let us NOT forget that A.M. Costa Rica's membership REALLY surged because of Don Enrique and all of his Investors! D.J.S  

Dale Schiedow

He blames newspapers

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

You have made great profits on the Villalobos story at the expense of many innocent people. Just what is your motivation? Whatever it is your journalism is very unprofessional. SUGEF has found nothing illegal about his business. The prosecutor has found nothing of money laundering, and it would appear the only crime is what the newspapers and magazines, along with government actions, have done to a legetimate businessman and over 6,000 investors. 

To Remove the WANTED POSTER, and print a retraction that would allow you to place the blame for it elsewhere would be something to consider. When this is all over you can bet on one thing. . .your subscriptions will fall and you will have to conjure up another false story on someone else. Where does it end? 

Mike Shawlee 
Seattle, Wash.

He wants Milanes out, too

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I would like to see the pictures of LEVC and Luis Milanes removed from your paper. Not only am I tired of seeing their pictures everyday, I, along with many other viewers, believe that it is unjust. Even it were justified, $500 is a ridiculous amount for a reward. 

Is it any wonder why this amount has not increased over the last two weeks after being viewed by thousands of people? I believe there must be something strictly personal behind this. Who is going to benefit if you bring him in? Tell us that.

Jon De Haai 
Bass Strait

He wants it out

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Please remove the reward offered for Don Enrique Villalobos. Thank you, 

Terry S.Warth, Ph.D.

Rewards is ‘unprofessional’

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Your reward of $500 is misleading, unprofessional and damaging to Villalobos’s customers. 

1. The first sentence implies the $500 is for physically returning Villalobos to Costa Rica. Not until the sixth paragraph do you clarify "$500 reward for information leading to the detention…".

2. A.M. is trying to create the news instead of accurately reporting the news. Your reward offer is sensationalism and is an attempt to cover up your weaknesses as investigative journalists.

3. Villalobos’s customers need him to be free to operate his business. Why do you "believe that investors only will see some of their money when the two men are in custody?." I believe the sooner this issue is settled, the sooner your readership will decline along with you advertising revenues. Your self-serving behavior will not be forgotten.  

Scott Banks

He echoes opinion

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Your reward of $500 is misleading, unprofessional and damaging to Villalobos’s customers. 

1. The first sentence implies the $500 is for physically returning Villalobos to Costa Rica. Not until the sixth paragraph do you clarify "$500 reward for information leading to the detention…".

2. A.M. is trying to create the news instead of accurately reporting the news. Your reward offer is sensationalism and is an attempt to cover up your weaknesses as investigative journalists.

3. Villalobos’s customers need him to be free to operate his business. Why do you "believe that investors only will see some of their money when the two men are in custody."? I believe the sooner this issue is settled, the sooner your readership will decline along with you advertising revenues. Your self-serving behavior will not be forgotten.  

H. Masters, Ph.D.


Leave ego out of it

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Please, take a step back from the situation and take a good look at this EV reward posting you have put in your paper. 

If you can leave your ego out of this I think you could agree with Hank's e-mail. . . I sure do. It does not reflect in a positive way towards you or your paper. Please try to look at this objectively. Maybe your intentions are good but it just comes across wrong. 

We all make a mistake now and again but to admit it is truly admirable. What do you think Jay? Will you or can you remove it? 

Daniel Kid

We look cheap

Dear A.M.Costa Rica:

Since I don't have too much to say I will get right to the point. Why don't you remove the silly $500 usd reward you have posted on an innocent man's head? 

It is plain to see that you are making yourself look rather ridiculous and cheap (500.). Also this is not the way a professional news person acts. They usually report the news and leave the catching of wanted people to the law. They don't try to start a lynch mob! 

This is just my two cents worth of what I think about your stupid reward offer. If it were $100,000. and Don Enrique was siting in my living room all tied up, I would not try to collect the reward. I would untie his hand and release him so that he could continue his fight against poverty and his love of the Lord. Give us a break from your reckless reporting habits!  

Antonio Silva

We are biased again

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I find it extremely objectionable that an Internet publication such as yours has the audacity to offer a reward for Enrique Villalobos. I used to believe that the media posted the news in a truthful manner. Oh, how naive I was! 

Your biased stance on this issue is representative of the whole Costa Rican (in)justice system; guilty until proven innocent. To further aggravate this matter is the lack of a swift orderly process. If I was the editor, I would ask myself who are my readers? I assure you that you have alienated the readers who were your customer base, as did the Tico Times. 

I think Mr. Villalobos is only guilty of not supporting Mr. Pacheco during his election campaign. I feel that the illegal raid on Mr. Villalobos could not have been done without the tacit approval of Mr. Pacheco. 

Please report facts, we have had enough of Ponzi schemes. conspiracy theories, etc. etc. If you still have a burning desire to use that $500 as a reward, I suggest you utilize it for the apprehension of Luis Milanes. Now, let me see if you think my letter is fit to print.  

Joe Giaramita

Luis Enrique Villalobos Camacho

Our reward offer is $500

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

This newspaper seeks the prompt return of two men who ran high-interest investment operations that have gone out of business.

Luis Enrique Villalobos Camacho, 62, was associated with Ofinter S.A., a money exchange house, and with his own private investment business that had about $1 billion in other people’s money on the books. 

Villalobos closed his business Oct. 14 and vanished.

Louis Milanes operated Savings Unlimited and several casinos in San José. He left the country with other members of his firm the weekend of Nov. 23. He may have as much as $260 million in his possession.

Both operations catered to North Americans. Villalobos had about 6,300 customers. Milanes had about 2,400.

Villalobos and Milanes are the subjects of international arrest warrant.  Associates of both men have been jailed.

A.M. Costa Rica has posted a $500 reward for information leading to the detention of either man with the hopes that others will make similar pledges. The newspaper believes that investors only will see some of their money when the two men are in custody.

Milanes has few supporters in San José. On the other hand, as the letters frequently on this page show, Villalobos still has supporters who believe that he will reappear and settle his debts. They believe he is in hiding because of a predatory Costa Rican government.

Louis Milanes

Enrique challenged
with $10,000 bet

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Your lead story today should stir the pot for a good long time. I can't wait to read the letters to the editor.

As this storm unfolds among his gullible investors brimming with naiveté, A.M. Costa Rica should ask, editorially, the following questions regarding our favorite fugitive's recent E-mail:

1. In spite of it's bewildering logic, the fact is, Mr. Villalobos is a fugitive from justice. That is a crime in and by itself. Why would an honest man run? Seriously, ask yourself that question. Even in the face of unfair prosecution, Villalobos could have easily exonerated himself by the simple act of producing the money. If he had it, and it was used for legitimate purposes as he claims, then the prosecutions case would be moot, and would crumble far in advance of any trial. The base issue is, after all, where is the loot? 

Contrary to his other assertion. If the money is invested in legitimate enterprises as he claims, his death or incarceration would not mean that the investors couldn't get their money. This is the reverse of what he pulled on Keith Nash, who is not in prison, is not dead, and is not a fugitive from Justice.

Mr. Villalobos, have you ever heard of a will?

2. His contention that if he was running a ponzi scheme he would not have been around for all these years is simply preposterous. The "Brothers" continued to accept money right up to the day they shut down. Anecdotal evidence suggest that each year they took in more then the prior year. Most of the so-called investors did not withdraw their principal. Indeed some let it "compound." To those people, the Brothers paid out nothing. The very mathematical basis of any long-running ponzi scam.

3. Equally preposterous is his contention that his investors knew the rules of "the game." Hmmm. How many thought it was a game. His assertion that some people received back their "investment" several times over is irrelevant.

The relevant issue is, if it was indeed a loan, where is the principal? Again, that could easily be cleared up if Villalobos would produce his records, and the money. Indeed, he could still produce that information while he remains a fugitive if he fears unfair prosecution.

4. I have a modest suggestion which, if Villalobos is legitimate, would quickly and decisively answer any questions of his probity and honesty. Because the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, and other respected publications, have now taken a major interest in this vale-of-tears, all he need do is to provide the enabling documentation of his financial viability to one of them. An agreement of confidentiality would present no problem and, unlike the Costa Rica media, the confidentiality of the information provided would be protected under United States law. Skeptics might want to revisit the Pentagon papers.

If a respected and competent publication, such as the Journal, the Tribune, or The New York Times, reviewed the information and concluded he was on the up-and-up, then I submit to you, prosecution would be impossible under the glare of the international media. Amnesty International would have a field day for malicious prosecution. Villalobos would return a hero and an international celebrity.

Villalobos will not, of course, do that or something like it. That is, take an action that would clear his reputation by a competent third-party, which he now claims has been maliciously besmirched. Ask yourself why not? The reason will be apparent to anyone who doesn't view the world thru rose-colored-glasses. 

Mr. Villalobos, I challenge you to take this action and prove your innocence.. If I'm wrong, and you demonstrate that you have the money, and can repay the investors in full, I'll donate $10,000 US to the University of Costa Rica's general scholarship fund in your name.

The E-mail address of the Wall Street Journal Editorial Page is: wsj.ltrs@wsj.com, the editor is Paul Gigot.

How about it? 'Wann'a bet?

Charles Hobbs 
New York, NY


3% interest is a drop 
in financial bucket

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Following is a copy of my posting today 1-2-03 to: Costarican Global Studies Group. Keep the Faith!!! 

I've just recently found your site courtesy of A.M. Costa Rica. I know, a sore spot for some of your members. Anyway, I've read some of the postings to your group to bring me up to speed on your groups’ position and views. 

First, let me say that I feel terrible about the situation, no matter who is to blame. Many person’s lives have been ruined because of this action and in my opinion, many more Ticos will suffer in the long run because of what has happened.  But as you well know, the government will somehow turn it around and blame either the investors or EV. 

Secondly, it doesn't matter what the motivation of the "Investors" was when they put up their money. They knew the risks involved and the history of EV. It was a "safe" move for them. Actually, I was considering them as a "Safe" investment for a time. No, I didn't have a problem with investing there, just got a better opportunity elsewhere. 

Third, as far as the 3% monthly interest goes, it’s a drop in the financial world bucket. For example, I had a "Financial Services" business for about nine years, whose main business was "factoring." In that business it was not uncommon for the monthly rate to exceed 15%. 

Admittedly, our average was around 10%. But I know of "major" factoring operations which if I may add, are owned by most major US and foreign banks, that have charges and fees that amount to 19 to 28% of principle per month. So don't think that you are getting a great deal at 3, 4 or even 5% per month. If EV had any brains at all he was in to "factoring" and/or "pre-funding". 

Yes, I know of other banking schemes they could have been involved with. But, I really know, he was making a ton of money either way. He doesn't need to defraud his clients!! 

Fourth, as far as the EV problem goes, I think you and others need to find the real source of this investigation. Don't be surprised to find that the true roots lie deep within the U.S. and Canadian IRS services. This would be in keeping with the "Tax Treaty" that the U.S. IRS is forcing many "Off shore haven" countries like Cost Rica to sign or face a tirade of political name-calling and trade and financial pressures brought to bear on their leaders. All this in the name of "Anti-Terrorism" and the "Narcowar". When it really is in the name of "Revenue Enhancement" for the government to prevent its citizens from removing their money from the tax base of the country which is quickly turning into a full blown "police state." 

This is extremely important for estate planing, otherwise known in the U.S. as the "Death Tax". 

In closing and I apologize for the length of this posting, let me say as a current and future investor/resident in other opportunities afforded in CR. Don't give up hope. Pressure the government officials both in CR and the U.S. to bring this witch hunt to a close. NOW!!! 

Call, write, sit in their offices, do whatever you can to bring this to the public attention everyday until they give up and end it. Remember, politicians can't stand negative press from everyday citizens. They cave in every time. Just look what happens when some "Special Interest" group turns up the heat., 

The Invader Group

He doesn’t waste words

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Hey now, this is not the Wild West. The man is not charged with anything and you are exploiting the situation for a measly 500 pieces of silver to sell newspapers. Remove it now. 

Jim C. Geyer

She says we should
concentrate elsewhere

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

. . . I'm asking that you please to drop the wanted poster and reward for Mr. Villalobos. There is so much unreported news that deserves your time and space. 

Oswaldo is sitting in jail while men that are suspects in the murder of young Shannon Martin are walking the streets free to murder again until their trial. I think the loss of this young life is much more important than the loss of money.

I would like to know someone in the press gives a damn about justice for all. Remember the Canadian man that sat in prison for a full year for defending himself. He lost everything because he did not choose to die in Costa Rica. How about all the tourists that are robbed, beaten, raped and killed, while bankrupt the government runs big expensive ads to lure in more victims. Tourists are not made aware of the dangers, and the next victum could be your child, family or close friend. 

How about some news on areas within Costa Rica. The government just closed down the free market in Gofito, the last hope for a already struggling community. How about some reporting on current conditions in the mountains since the U.S. and Costa Rica went in and destroyed their pot fields and left the Indians to starve. Don't get me wrong, I don't like drugs. But growing pot was the only sorce of income, and I've heard that the area is being taken over by a religous cult that teaches hate and killing of all other religons. In turn for attending they are giving the Indians food and money, is there any truth to that? As the people lack education, the remote location and being recently burned out of business and left to starve by what they now consider to be their enemies, this would be a pretty good recruting station for terrorist.

Villalobos did not choose to close his doors to investors. It has become very obvious the the Costa Rican government intends to keep all the money it can lay its greedy little paws on. The court has already made a decision that all money is considered dirty because some was dirty even though it appeared to be clean. How about the fact that the government of Costa Rica gave the dirty guys residency before they invested or exchanged currency. How about Pres. Able accepting dirty money for his personal gain from an Arab living in Panama that is wanted by the U.S. 

Think about it, who is robbing the honest people that invested honest dollars from the sale of property or a lifetime of savings. I don't expect you to close your eyes to the Villalobos case, I'd ask that you open your eyes and report only facts. 

You didn't hire Christine Pratt, did you? There is more to that story than meets the eye and Gail's [Nystrom’s} story has not remained consistant. Nash had a reason for not naming his son to handle his financial affairs. If you trusted your beloved (lawyer) son would you name Gail to handle your money? 

Nash supported and helped a lot people and continued to lived well, if he did not take interest income how could he have done all this? Nash had Canadian dollars retirement funds, not the same value as USD. Villalobos never denied he owed Mr. Nash, it was the 1.5 million dollar figure that young Nash and a Tico lawyer arrived at that he did not agree with. Terms of investment can be changed, it is a pretty safe bet that not all papers found were presented by Nash, the younger.  

Sharon Johnson


He has a lot to lose

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I'm new to your newspaper by virtue of the Villalobos adventure. I'm a new investor living in the U.S. I've never received a cent from the Brothers and consequently have a great deal to lose. 

I've tracked your paper daily and appreciate the generally objective reporting of the situation, but I agree with most of the other investors that your reward for Luis is over the top for a newspaper of substance. In addition, given the latest communiqué from Luis it may even help to jeopardize the outcome of this situation.

Please limit your role to reporting the facts and leave the police work to others.

Mike Todd

Our effort is unorthodox

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Despite the anger that many of the victims feel towards you, your publication has been the best source of information about the Villalobos affair. It is not at all hostile to the investors and has given them more than ample space to air their views and concerns. It has also published, verbatim, statements made by the fugitive Villalobos. Blaming you for exacerbating their misfortune is both childish and counterproductive on their part.

I agree, however, with the criticism leveled against amcostarica.com for posting a reward for information leading to the "detention" of Don Luis. While not unequivocally unethical, this zealous attempt to aid the authorities is, at the very least, unorthodox conduct for a newspaper. Moreover, can't you see that the paltry amount of the reward can elicit only derision?

With one exception, the Villalobos statement in your Jan 2nd issue is consistent with Don Luis's earlier remarks. The exception is one, very ominous sentence that would only heighten my fear, if I were an investor: "In case I die, or go to prision [sic], due [to] a behavior which is not a crime, as I have indicated to the Superintendent of Financial Entities, nobody will recover anything."

I've believed from the moment Villalobos fled that there is scarcely any chance that the investors will recover their money. This curious threat, if I may call it that, strengthens my belief. When investors entrusted their money to Don Luis, did they do so with the understanding that all would be lost if he did what anybody can do at any time: die or be killed? That would have been a very shaky basis upon which to risk one's life savings, wouldn't it? Why should his death necessarily result in the impoverishment of so many investors? Did he have no plan in place to deal with such a contingency? 

Whoever heard of anyone making an investment that would result in a total loss if a principal (or the principal) of the investment firm should die? Furthermore, why should his imprisonment also necessarily cause a total loss? Does this money exist or does it not? If it does, and the authorities should arrest and convict Villalobos of a crime, but refrain from confiscating it, what is to prevent Don Luis from honoring his commitments? Why should his predicament, even if undeserved, result in his customers not receiving what is rightfully theirs? What he says here (along with a lot of other things in this case) doesn't add up. 

These are not words one would expect to hear from a trustworthy businessman. In anxiously awaiting the return of their funds, the inordinately hopeful investors are clinging to a very slippery and thin reed indeed. 

Peter Culhane
Avon, Mass.

Enrique is honest man

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I am an investor with Don Enrique. He is an honest man. The Costa Rican gov't is the culprit here, and you know this for a fact, but you have the gall to offer a stupid reward for the one person which has caused your A. M. Costa Rica to skyrocket. How stupid can a person be? Why don't you look yourself in the mirror and ask yourself what if someone put a $500 reward on your HEAD for something you may or may not have done. THINK WHAT MIGHT HAPPEN.

Jerry Morgan

They own lots of land

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Your reward notice needs to be removed and is frankly bush league. You have gained not lost because of the Villalobos situation. It is obvious from his comments that if it were not for the governments actions he would still be paying his lenders. 

The biggest story in this whole matter, at this stage, is the article in Tico Times noting the holdings of the Villalobos family. 7,500 sq km of land, planes, plants, etc. The government says this was a scam all along and if so why did Enrique accumulate a $ billion in real estate in Costa Rica if he was planning to skip the country with investor money. The numbers quoted, of course, could be completely wrong but if they are accurate you should show the areas of Costa Rica owned by the Villalobos family in an article. 

If he does own 7,500 sq km that would be roughly 20% of the free land in the country. This may also explain why the government wants him out of the way. Could they want him out of the way to steal his property and cover the national debt? 

There is no doubt in my mind that there are ulterior motives behind this whole matter that relate to the current president and administration. Prior administrations had no issues with his operation for the last 25 years. I wonder what the current administration is up to and suspect it is no good. 

In addition, the reputation of the Costa Rican government is graft and corruption, so if there was an issue like this with Villalobos who are they to judge. I have appreciated your coverage of this matter but can't imagine who came up with the $500 reward deal. 

Now we are immoral

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I believe that your posting of a reward for the subject of a government inquiry based on laws proclaiming guilt and imprisonment before a person has a chance to prove his innocence is unethical and immoral. You should look to the greater truth in all of your investigations. The mere characterizing of one by association with another is a form of condemning. As a self-proclaimned herald, you should resist these temptations that serve only evil ends. The real true power is in finding the truth.  

David Gifford

Convinced he is innocent

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

In view of Enrique's recent statements and declaration of innocence, which we are convienced that he is, please remove your "Wanted AD" and the reward offering. Thank you for considering this request and, hopefully, giving Enrique some hope of support from his creditors and the media.  

Jerry and MJ Abbott


The lawyer is outraged

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Good Morning. I am OUTRAGED that you, a newspaper, should publish some sort of $500 bounty on the head of Mr. Luis Enrique Villalobos. You should be ashamed of yourselves! Take it out immediately! 

E. Baxter Lemmond 
Attorney at law 

She won’t buy anything

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Please remove Enrique Villalobos from wanted poster. I would love to see Milanes remain but feel that Enrique has not done wrong. As long as reward on him is posted, I will buy nothing from anyone that advertises with you.  

Delores Wade
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