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(506) 223-1327            Published Monday, Feb. 5, 2007, in Vol. 7, No. 25             E-mail us    
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A three-judge panel presides with Oswaldo Villalobos Camacho and his four-lawyer defense team to the left. There were about 30 spectators in the audience, including reporters. Officials picked the biggest available auditorium because they expected a crowd.

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Oswaldo Villalobos trial begins with a reading of the allegations
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
(posted at 9:50 a.m.)
The fraud, money laundering and illegal banking trial of Oswaldo Villalobos Camacho began today. Much of the morning was spent with Walter Espinoza, the prosecutor, and his assistant reading the detailed summary of charges.

The litany included references to individually identifiable checks, who wrote them and where they ended up.

Oswaldo Villalobos sat quietly with his lawyers and only stood and responded when the presiding judge asked if he were present.
About 20 spectators were present when the trial began shortly after 8 a.m. Among the missing were several lawyers for individual complainants. In all, seven lawyers representing individuals attended.

Costa Rican law permits individual victims to join with the prosecution of criminal cases. There are about 100 such complainants in the Villalobos case.

Officials had expected a big turnout, but groups friendly to Oswaldo and his fugitive brother, Enrique Villalobos Camacho, encouraged former clients of the high-interest operation to stay away at least for a few days. The trial is expected to last for months with 117 witnesses.


Crooks are getting smarter
Clues in land fraud cases gaining more importance

By Garland M. Baker
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A good detective can catch crooks in Costa Rica.  The court now voids contracts, deeds, documents and deceptive acts more than before based on mere indications and clues of wrongdoing.  Good thing too, because day by day the wicked get worse and believe that they can get away with anything here.

Even expats get caught up in stealing property and other assets that are not theirs because they believe they will not get caught by the law.  It is true the judicial system is slow and inefficient at times, but it is equally true the country is striving to make it better.

Legal issues in Costa Rica involving theft and fraud usually form a triangle of players: the victim or plaintiff, the defendant and a third party.  For example, in property fraud, the victim represents the true owner, the defendant is the crook, and the third party the person who bought land from the crook.

The civil and criminal courts treat legal issues pertaining to fraud differently.  Civil courts protect the third party and the criminal courts protect the rightful owner.

The playing field is different too.  Civil courts treat defendants and plaintiffs on a 60-40 basis.  This means they give defendants a preconceived reasonable doubt rating they are right of 60 percent, plaintiffs get a 40 percent rating that they are right.  Criminal courts preconceived notion is defendants get a 75 percent reasonable doubt rating they are not guilty and a 25 percent estimate that the defendant is guilty.

Smart criminals try to cover all their bases as they do in a good murder mystery, getting rid of all the evidence.   This makes prosecution difficult, so the courts now look at more than just the testimony. They look at the circumstantial evidence as well.

Simulation and dissimulation are the key elements to asset crimes in Costa Rica.

Simulation in legal terms means the act of giving a false appearance as in making something look legal when it is not.  Simulation is to imitate. Forgery is an extreme example of simulation.  Another example of an act of simulation is holding a mortgage on one's own property using a fictitious name or company.  Holding a mortgage on ones own property is illegal in Costa Rica. Holding mortgage certificates over one's own property is not.

Dissimulation is the act of deceiving as in hiding or camouflaging.  Dissimulation is to disguise.  An example of dissimulation is to put ones assets in a wife’s or friend's name to hide it from creditors.

Many times clues to an illegal transaction are easy to find as in a Quepos case where a politicos' spouse figured in a land fraud.  The true owner was not in Costa Rica when the property 


transaction theoretically took place.  This was easy to prove with immigration records.  The criminal judge gave this clue more importance then proving the signature to the deed was false because the transfer document in the notary’s protocol book magically disappeared, another clue of wrongdoing.

Surprise private contracts or plat maps over properties that magically appear from nowhere are also indicators of a swindle or fraud.  Transferring assets to friends, girlfriends, or relatives at an unrealistic low price are suspect by most judges.

A classic sham in Costa Rica is faking a general assembly meeting in a company where shareholders are changed, powers of attorney are given to strangers or assets are transferred without the consent of the real owners.  

Worse yet is where a shareholders’ meeting takes place and legitimate owners forge the signatures of other shareholders in the corporate legal books to take control or dilute ownership.

In both of these cases, it is common that the company’s books go “poof” into thin air and disappear.  When this happens, judges start looking for other clues to prove foul play.

For those involved in illegal activities in Costa Rica including, but not limited to, property fraud, faking company legal books, or other documents, the courts are changing direction and do not necessarily need hard evidence to void the illegal transaction.


Garland M. Baker is a 35-year resident and naturalized citizen of Costa Rica who provides multidisciplinary professional services to the international community.  Reach him at info@crexpertise.com.  Lic. Allan Garro provides the legal review.  Reach him at crlaw@licgarro.com.  Baker has undertaken the research leading to these series of articles in conjunction with A.M. Costa Rica.  Find the collection at http://crexpertise.info.  Copyright 2004-2007, use without permission prohibited.


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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Feb. 5, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 25

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Immigration and labor raid
causes fear at gaming firms


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Foreign employees and managers in sportsbooks and other gambling Web sites are on edge today because immigration and labor ministry investigators staged a raid Friday morning.

The raid, which has not been confirmed by any official agency, took place at a gambling operation in Oficentro La Sabana. The news of the raid sent ripples through other Internet gambling operations.

Workers said they thought that someone had tipped sportsbook executives because many of them did not show up for work Friday.

In the case of the Oficentro la Sabana operation, several persons were taken into custody, unofficial sources said, adding that officials also visited an operation in Rohrmoser and another in San Pedro.

The sportsbook and gambling industry employs many foreigners who do not have the right to work or stay in Costa Rica. The industry has been notorious for providing false or doctored tourist visa renewals for its employees.

Working illegally comes under the domain of both the Ministerio de Trabajo and the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería.

Another immigration raid, this one Friday night, resulted in the detention of 26 women and two men. They were found inside the Hotel Del Rey, a well-known gathering place for prostitutes and those who would employ them.

A Del Rey manager said that the raid was another in a series of investigations at the hotel, located at Avenida 1 and Calle 9. Immigration officials visit the hotel along with Fuerza Pública officers about once every two months to check the identification and legality of those they find there.

Shortly after the detentions, the Del Rey was operating normally with a large number of men and women in the bar, casino and other public areas.

Property fraud case set
to begin today in San José

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Five persons are going to trial today in San José to answer charges stemming from property fraud. The Poder Judicial identified the individuals by the last names of Washington, Porras, Pacheco, Mata and Solórzano.

A summary of the case said that the Ministerio Pública, the prosecution, contends that the five defrauded various persons with the same property by mortgaging it on multiple times. Some 25 persons have been called to testify, the Poder Judicial said.

Iberia will increase weekly flights

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Iberia, the Spanish airline, is increasing to 10 its weekly flights to Costa Rica. A release from the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo said that in June the company will have daily non-stop flights to and from Madrid to Juan Santamaría airport in Alajuela. 

The company now has flights to San José but with stops in either Guatemala or Panamá, the release said. Iberia is flying Airbus A340-600 with a capacity for 232 persons.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Feb. 5, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 25 






Sports fans at the Sportmen's Lodge watch Peyton Manning, the Colt's quarterback who later was named the game's most valuable player.
A.M. Costa Rica/Noel Dekking

Superbowl was only as far away as the nearest television
By Noel Dekking
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Even though they were hundreds of miles from their mainland, expats felt right at home watching the Super Bowl in packed sports bars around the nation's capital Sunday. 

At least five of the San Jose's nightspots held special events for the big Sunday showdown between the Chicago Bears and the Indianapolis Colts.  Here's what fans who watched the game from home missed out on:

The Sportsman's Lodge launched the biggest celebration that a reporter could find, boasting a crowd of more than 250 fans.  For a $50 entrance fee, viewers received all the food they could eat and all the booze they could drink, likely making it the most exuberant group in town, too.  Bill Alexander, the owner of the bar-hotel, bought a new projection screen for the event. It measures more than 100 inches.  The Imperial dancers also were on hand in case the half-time show proved a little boring.  Not included in the door price was a raffle with prizes such as a digital camera, rafting, restaurant, and casino gift certificates, and an 18-carat gold bracelet.  Their was also a
football pool that regulars have been following all post season, said Alexander.

For Santa Ana fans there were two happening options.   Rock & Roll Pollo had more than 200 football fans who took advantage of the free entrance and 800-colons beers.  Fans started filtering in at 2 p.m. for the pre-game show and stayed for the six televisions and $5 hamburger and fries combos.  About 150 followers crowded the Tex Mex restaurant/bar and hotel where entrance was free and beers were also around 800 colons.  The special was a mixed plate that featured a variety of appetizers.

For those who could not tear themselves away from the roulette wheel, Club Casino Colonial put on an NFL party with an all-you-can buffet.  This location had 12 televisions tuned into the Super Bowl and 180 fans reserved a $20 ticket, said one of the employees.  There was also a raffle.

At Bar Poás in San José, owner Harry Hart made no secret where his sentiments were. He is a Chicago Bears fan. He was offering chicken wings and hot dogs on the house. But the game's second half was unkind to the Bears, who ended up on the short side of a 29-17 score. The game was played in a downpour with Prince providing the halftime show. 


Growing wave of cable thefts results in hundreds of arrests
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two men have been sentenced to six years in jail and another 375 persons arrested in 2006 as authorities attempted to combat the rising trend of cable theft, officials reported.

For more than a year now, the nation has been plagued by the theft of copper cable from telephone poles and light poles, a crime that brings about 2,200 colons ($4.35) to the kilo.  One of the more drastic results has been the shut down of radar operations at Juan Santamaría airport, a situation that has arisen twice after someone stole outlying connector cables.   

The criminal trend has cost the government more than 1.2 billion colons ($2,299,820), said the analysis section of the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.

The public experiences inconvenience like street light outages and interruptions to the phone service.  Reports of thieves being badly burnt or electrocuted indicate that the money-making scheme is not a foolproof one, but the phenomenon continues because it can earn a sufficient
income for those addicted to crack cocaine, police said.

According to the government, the worst hit areas include San José, where 162 persons were arrested, Limón with 61 arrests, Cartago with 51 arrests, Alajuela with 35 arrests, and Heredia with 32 arrests.  The more common nights for police to encounter cable clippers are Saturday and Monday, after midnight.

Rafael Ángel Gutiérrez, vice minister of Seguridad Pública, attributed the number of arrests to rapid responses from 911 calls and to an increased presence of police officers to troubled areas in the nighttime.

The two men sentenced to six years in prison were identified by the last names Amador Sequeira and Cedeño Navarro.  Depending on the value of the stolen property, the Costa Rican law stipulates that criminals fall into one of two sentencing categories: three months to three years, or one to 10 years.

Harsher sentences were expected after the Asamblea Legislative said it might increase the penalties on the theft of copper cables, sewer covers and other utility metals.


One metaphor about hens should be used with caution
Como una gallina con huevo
 
“Like a hen with an egg.” How many of you have heard a chicken early in the morning after having laid her egg? She happily clucks and cackles strutting busily around the chicken house. Now, admittedly this is the kind of hen who lives, or used to live, on a traditional farm, not those who populate commercial poultry facilities that have been essentially turned into living egg machines producing two or three eggs a day in total confinement.
 
We employ this dicho to describe someone who is exuberantly happy because of some accomplishment, but also hurries about willy-nilly trying to do more.
 
A friend of ours immigrated to Costa Rica many years ago from the States and married a Tica who, as it turned out, happened to have been my parent’s babysitter when I was a child. I had not seen this woman in many years, but after she got married we met her husband and renewed our friendship. 

This couple was unhappy with urban life and bought some land near the Turrialba volcano. There they built themselves a modest house and generally took up the life of traditional Costa Rican campesinos.
 
It is a beautiful place of which they are justifiably proud, having literally built it with their own hands. They keep many animals, including chickens. We were recently up there, and the chickens reminded me of today’s dicho, as did the behavior of their owners: proud, happy, and always extremely busy.
 
I, unfortunately, find it very cold and gloomy up in those lofty altitudes. There is hardly ever much sun, and the days are usually gray, foggy and often rain-drenched. The temperature at night sometimes hovers near freezing. But our friends seem to thrive in this inhospitable climate and wouldn’t think of leaving.
 
But, getting back to our dicho, it sometimes gets modified a little and comes out como una gallina culeca. This version is like when we say in English that a female animal is “in heat,” meaning that she is fertile, or that her offspring-bearing instincts are upon her. We use this

The
way we say it

By Daniel Soto



expression to describe a woman who is ready and eager to bear children.

Now, a word of caution: It should not be too difficult to figure out how como una gallina culeca could be taken as an offense. I wouldn’t advise referring to a young woman in this way directly to her face unless you know her extremely well and even then are willing to risk offending her.  My grandmother, for example, used this expression to imply that a certain woman was “hot” to find a husband. She was perfectly well aware how offensive this sounded, but that did not stop her. In fact, there was little that would deter dear grandmamma from saying whatever was on her mind on any topic.
 
My poor cousin Martha was desperate to get married, but it took a long time for the wretched creature to find a husband. My grandmother was merciless in her unceasingly derisive commentary. When at last she did finally marry, grandmother remarked that maybe now Martha would finally leave us all in peace, when in reality it was granny who was driving everyone crazy with her non-stop wisecracks concerning Martha’s fecundity
 
In any case, both versions of this dicho refer to people who are hyperactive, always busy, or overly exuberant. But it’s hard to say exactly which came first, la culeca or el huevo.


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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Feb. 5, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 25  


British women is still carrying bullet from beach encounter
By Noel Dekking
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A British tourist was shot and robbed in Uvita on her first day visiting a Costa Rican beach.  She and her companion were robbed twice in two days.

Valerie Kearney and Allan Waterhouse of Darbishire, England, were in the middle of a 12-week vacation when Ms. Kearney was run down and shot by an unknown assailant. 

Ms. Kearney, 51, said she was relaxing at the Uvita beach and watching over belongings while Waterhouse was taking his turn for a swim.  Ms. Kearney said she heard a strange sound coming from her left side.  When she turned she said she saw a man running toward her with a pistol in his hand.  She quickly jumped to her feet and backed away from their bags, hoping to avert any trouble, she said.  Regardless of her passive approach, the man raised his gun and shot Ms. Kearney, who was able to turn just in time to take the bullet in the back of her left arm just below the shoulder. 

The thief made off with the couple's beach bag that had nothing more than some clothes in it.  The bag was brand new, however, because it was a replacement for their other bag that was stolen on a bus ride the previous day.  On this occasion clothes and binoculars were stolen when the bus was at a pit stop.

Ms. Kearney said, recalling the story with some emotional difficulty, that she just can't understand why the man would shoot her when she backed away.  “He could have taken anything he wanted without any problems. Why did he have to shoot. I just don't understand it” she said.

Feeling a numbness in her arm, she opened her eyes to see blood spurting out.  Having heard the gunshot and his companion's screams, Waterhouse made it back to shore and tied off the wound with a piece of fabric. 

With assistance from some concerned locals, they made their way off the central Pacific beach closer to the road where they sat on a bench.  A Costa Rican man then drove them down the highway to meet up with an ambulance that was headed north from Cortes.

At the Cortes hospital, doctors took x-rays, cleaned the wound and gave her a number of injections.  Police arrived to make a report but the couple only speaks

A.M. Costa Rica/Noel Dekking
Valerie Kearney still has a bullet in her arm


minimal Spanish and could not explain to the officers what happened.  The doctors decided not to take the bullet out of her arm for reasons that are unknown, said the woman.

Ms. Kearney is still in a lot of pain and the couple is awaiting a flight back to England Thursday.  They also hope to get a second opinion on the bullet wound today when they visit a hospital to have the stitches taken out. 

The couple are experienced travelers and have been throughout Europe, India and Africa.  They began their trip in Cuba and had planned to travel through Central America until sometime in March.  This incident is not going to stop the two travelers from taking future adventures, but at least a week of relaxing with their dogs beside a roaring fire has been planned upon return, said Mrs. Kearney.


New U.N. report says human activity is major cause of global warming
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The U.N. said that changes in the atmosphere, oceans, glaciers and ice caps now show unequivocally that the world is warming due to human activities.

Michel Jarraud, secretary general of the World Meteorological Organization, said that the report represents the most rigorous and comprehensive assessment possible of the current state of climate science and has considerably narrowed the uncertainties of a 2001 report. 

The document was prepared by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a division of the U.N. that brings together some of the world’s leading climate scientists and experts, said a U.N. release.

Margaret Beckett, the British foreign secretary, said that the new report confirms that climate change is worse and more
urgent than had been previously understood. “What is becoming clear is that this is not just another environmental threat but that international peace, prosperity, security and development are at stake, she said. 

Mrs. Beckett added “There is an urgent need for the international debate on climate change to move beyond 'them and us' and recognize the world’s shared dilemma – failure to grow our economies will threaten peace and prosperity, but if we grow our economies at the expense of the climate the same peace and prosperity will be threatened.”

Some of the documents observations are that sea level may rise up to 0.6 meters (1.96 feet) by 2100, the temperatures may rise up to 6.3 C. (11.34 F.) by 2100, and that it is very likely that human emissions of greenhouse gases have caused most of the warming over the past 50 years, while solar changes accounts for about 10 percent.  



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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Feb. 5, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 25  


Rally race in Parrita complicated by heat and dust cover
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Team Gonzalo Quirós and Roberto Yglesias, drivers of a Renault Clío, took the first rally car racing title of the year in the Campeonato Nacional de Rally Mapache 2007. 

The extreme heat coupled with lack of wind created a sustaining dust cover that made track conditions difficult for drivers.  One of the drivers smashed into a tree on the first course, which was located inside one of Parrita's palm oil fincas.  In true rally style, the crowd pushed another car for a re-start after it faltered at the same corner.  

Randall and Javier Arroyo, team No. 33, ended up sending
 their car into the forest of the second track after avoiding driving off a bridge.  This accident forced a delay, and the race had to abandon one of its seven laps.

Results for the race were also delayed because the champions broke a no-alcohol stipulation by slugging back on a bottle of guaro in the pits after the race.

Winners include Remmy Espinoza and Luis Alonso Arce of the N1 class, Federico Escobar and Jorge Patiño of the N2 class and Gonzalo Quirós and Roberto Yglesias of the N3 class.

Marvin Gómez and Esteban Varela took the open class. 


Diego Naranjo maintains surfing lead despite a second-place finish this weekend
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Diego Naranjo's second place finish behind 17-year-old Luis Vindas in this weekend's surf competition keeps him at the top of the leaderboard in the open class division.

Copa Mango, the fifth date of the Circuito Nacional de Surf, rolled into Playa Hermosa near Jacó Saturday with over 100 competitors taking to the waves. 

In the women's division it was Lisbeth Vindas who took the weekend title.  Natalie Bernold has been the real story of the women's competition this year, as she has dominated the under-18 girls category and also been competing in the
women's division.  She finished second to Ms. Vindas in the women's division Sunday.  

Naranjo's near victory gave him another 430 points bringing his total to 1,620 on the season. He is from Jacó.

The other popular competition of the surf weekend is the Miss Surf Costa Rica, in which Jill Sollar of Playa Jacó and Arielle Weller of Playa Hermosa both won entrance to the final competition that is set to take place in April.

The next competition, Trofeo Freestyle, is scheduled for Feb. 24 and 25 in Playa Guiones near Nosara on the Pacific coast of the Nicoya Peninsula.


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