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(506) 2223-1327      Published Thursday, March 5, 2009,  in Vol. 9, No. 45      E-mail us
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Ex-investor pledges $10,000 for Villalobos reward
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A self-described once-foolish investor has pledged $10,000 to the Luis Enrique Villalobos reward fund. He is Hank Guichelaar of Longview, Texas, who is known to fellow investors as the author of a newsletter on the Villalobos financial crash.

Guichelaar said he was responding to an emotional plea that an anonymous investor made via A.M. Costa Rica Wednesday.

While not totally supporting the letter writer's position, Guichelaar said:

"Enrique can be found, but no one, including Tico justice, has really tried. The small rewards offered have not incited serious effort. I'd like to add $10,000 U.S. This amount is payable to the person(s) who provide verifiable proof of Enrique's whereabouts and will be paid upon his arrest and incarceration. If this occurs before June 30th of 2009, I believe I can convince some to add to this pot.

"Instead of whining, let's get the bastard."

Letter is HERE

A.M. Costa Rica has renewed its $500 reward, and a Canadian investor has pledged $150. The newspaper staff said that the door still is open for more individuals to make additional pledges. Staffers also stress that in order to collect the reward an individual must demonstrate that their actions in finding Luis Enrique Villalobos Camacho were totally legal.

Some investors with Savings Unlimited, operated by Luis Milanes, went to Panama and found José Victor Poo, an associate, in a hotel there in February 2003, about six months after Milanes fled the country. Poo  was brought back to Costa Rica legally and continues to be a suspect in the fraud case stemming from the collapse of that high interest borrowing scheme. That case is moving to a court hearing in July.

Villalobos investors lavished money on lawyers but with the goal of fighting the government and protecting the two brothers, who also ran a high interest scheme.

A trial of the other brother, Oswaldo, established that the operator was, in the eyes of the three-judge panel, a ponzi scheme. The panel convicted him of fraud and illegal banking.

Said Guichelaar:

"When Enrique fled in 2002, he left many investors devastated and financially broken beyond their comprehension. At least three committed suicide and scores had to drastically alter their lives in order to survive. Because of the feedback I received while maintaining a  newsletter to a significant number of Villalobos investors, I learned that as time went by, the great majority
Enrique on Interpol
Luis Enrique Villalobos is still on Interpol site


managed to put their financial troubles behind them and move on.

"Some were slowed in their recovery by the blatant lies perpetuated by the fan-club UCCR, originally formed as United and Concerned Citizens of Costa Rica. Instrumental in assisting them were groups who had fraudulently recruited investors for the Villalobos gang claiming due diligence investigations, like Cornerstone Investment Circle in California and Covenant Management in Brentwood, Tennessee.

"When reading yesterday's 'emotional plea', I practically sensed the atmosphere and secrecy that inundated Villalobos' offices. Besides the fact that the writer is unwilling to give his name, he not only believes that Enrique has money to return, he is also afraid of him. Just like UCCR board members who continue to boast that they will not withdraw their funds when holy-man Enrique returns, this poor soul makes promises to please his god.

Luis Enrique Villalobos is believed to be living somewhere in southern Nicaragua close enough to dash into Costa Rica and protection from extradition should U.S. marshals come calling. Although the collapse of the Villalobos lending operation and the money exchange houses identified with Oswaldo might have cost investors up to $1 billion, Luis Enrique is believed to have significantly less than that.

Others try to make the case that the brothers were just front men and that the intellectual authors of the ponzi scheme still live in the Central Valley. Oswaldo never really described the operation of the scheme in court. So Luis Enrique might be hiding from more than just creditors.


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Hospital worker, kin
facing credit card case


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A 50-year-old woman who works in the maintenance department of the Hospital Nacional del Niño is accused of stealing credit cards from fellow employees and then passing them to her children to run up bills for merchandise.

In addition to the woman, also involved is a son, 23, his girlfriend of the same age, and a daughter, 16.

The four were arrested Wednesday at their home in Pavas by agents from the Sección de Fraudes of the Judicial Investigating Organization.

There have been four complaints filed in this case, and the amount of money involved is more than 1 million colons, some $1,800.

Ciudad Colón burglaries
blamed on local trio


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two men and a 17-year -old youth are the principal suspects in a wave of home burglaries that have taken place over the last two months in Ciudad colón.

The trio, 20, 26 and 17 years, were detained Wednesday in  Quebrada Honda de Ciudad Colón.

Although the thefts usually took place when no one was at home, when the thieves were surprised by a homeowner they threatened him or her with death if they made a police report, the Judicial Investigating Organization said.

Although investigators said they now have five cases, they expect that more will be reported now that suspects have been detained.


Our reader's opinion
'Let's get Enrique Villalobos,'
former investor urges


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

This is in response to the 'emotional plea' in yesterday's edition.

The 'anonymous' soul who penned that pathetic piece would have received some sympathy, oh, I say, up to about five years ago.

If that seems harsh, allow me to remind you that I was a foolish "investor" with The Brothers, one also affected by the closure of this outfit but then went undercover to find out what he could.

As you correctly reported in your Jan. 8, 2004, issue, I then wrote the - to UCCR blasphemous term - "ponzi" and accused Enrique Villalobos of operating one. While I was a complete ignoramus to invest in such a shady scheme, I learned my lesson. I also became intrigued by financial fraud. In 2006 I was asked to translate a European study on the subject written for the Justice Department of The Netherlands.

When Enrique fled in 2002, he left many investors devastated and financially broken beyond their comprehension. At least three committed suicide and scores had to drastically alter their lives in order to survive. Because of the feedback I received while maintaining a newsletter to a significant number of Villalobos investors, I learned that as time went by, the great majority managed to put their financial troubles behind them and move on.

Some were slowed in their recovery by the blatant lies perpetuated by the fan-club UCCR, originally formed as United and Concerned Citizens of Costa Rica. Instrumental in assisting them were groups who had fraudulently recruited investors for the Villalobos gang claiming due diligence investigations, like Cornerstone Investment Circle in California and Covenant Management in Brentwood, Tennessee.

When reading yesterday's "emotional plea." I practically sensed the atmosphere and secrecy that inundated Villalobos' offices. Besides the fact that the writer is unwilling to give his name, he not only believes that Enrique has money to return, he is also afraid of him. Just like UCCR board members who continue to boast that they will not withdraw their funds when holy-man Enrique returns, this poor soul makes promises to please his god.

He has not learned a thing and believes that after almost seven years, there's a chance of recovering money. While it appears as true human tragedy at first, the ignorance overshadows the humanity right away.

Enrique can be found but no one, including Tico justice, has really tried. The small rewards offered have not incited serious effort. I'd like to add $10,000 U.S. This amount is payable to the person(s) who provide verifiable proof of Enrique's whereabouts and will be paid upon his arrest and incarceration. If this occurs before June 30th of 2009, I believe I can convince some to add to this pot.

Instead of whining, let's get the bastard.
Hank Guichelaar
Longview, Terxas

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Autopista del Sol will use electronic toll collecting devices
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Autopista del Sol will announce today a system of electronic toll collecting that is designed to reduce the wait by motorists at toll booths.

The exact nature of the system will be outlined at a 10 a.m. meeting, but it appears that the company plans to provide electronic gates for motorists who have prepaid their tolls and carry an electronic device within the vehicle.

The system will be the first in the county, although such systems have been in use in the United States and Europe since the 1980s.

The announcement today comes with participation by Banco HSBC.

Meanwhile, the highway is facing unhappy neighbors as workers move to close 19 illegal entrances in Santa Ana. There are hundreds of such entrances without permits along the highway route. They are illegal because the owners did 
not obtain permits from the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes. The ministry never pressed the point because some of the businesses have been there for years.

Among those entities affected is access to water tanks in  Alto de Las Palomas, Guachipelín. The tanks are property of the Instituto Costarricense de Acueductos y Alcantarillados. Businesses include Pequeño Mundo, the Machu Pichu restaurant Land Rover, said the ministry, which also mentioned The Forum business park in Santa Ana.

These firms and affected individuals are believed to be preparing court cases.

Typically service roads are constructed to provide individual access while reducing the number of access points for major highways. The ministry and the highway concession holder, Autopista, made no mention of the access problems until Wednesday.

A protracted court case could stall road construction.


Lawmaker proposes a bill to outlaw uranium imports
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Tourists would be violating the law if they tried to smuggle in uranium in their luggage, according to a bill proposed for adoption in the Asamblea Legislativa.

Alexander Mora Mora of Liberación Nacional has proposed the law that would prohibit the use of uranium and any of its forms, either enriched or depleted as well as other types of industrial uranium and other radioactive materials whose use is for weapons.

He is president of the Comisión Permanente Especial de Derechos Humanos. He made specific reference to the weaponry used between the Palestinians and the Israelis in the Gaza strip this year.

The creation of a proposed law is believed to have been influenced by activist Damacio López of the Campaign Against Depleted Uranium, who visited here recently.

López and Herbert Reed, a U.S. veteran also active in the campaign, visited here two years ago to promote the ban. At the time Oscar López of the Partido Accesibilidad Sin
Exclusión said he was proposing a similar law.

The military used depleted uranium as projectiles because the metal is more dense then lead and can give greater penetration against enemy armor. The metal also is used in armor for the same reason.

Commercially it is used as boxes to contain radioactive materials and shielding in commercial and medical applications.

The use is controversial, and some soldiers, like Reed, have said they were sickened by contact with depleted uranium dust or other fragments.

Reed, who served with the New York National Guard in Iraq, is the poster boy for possible negative effects by U.S. depleted uranium technology. He makes frequent public appearances.

When Reed was here the depleted uranium issue was being used as a weapon against the free trade treaty. Opposition lawmakers said that if Costa Rica passed the agreement, depleted uranium weaponry could be made here.


Unhappy real estate saleslady who sparked probe gets her chance to testify
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

It was an unhappy real estate agent who sparked the criminal investigation into a $39.5 million loan from the government of Finland for medical equipment.
The saleswoman, Ana Thalía Arteaga, was in court Wednesday telling her story.

The woman was negotiating the sale of a $700,000 home in Valle del Sol in Santa Ana when the would-be buyer,  Eliseo Vargas, broke off negotiations. The woman lost her commission.

When she found out that Vargas was going to rent the home after the Corporación Fischel purchased it, she sought out reporters.
Vargas was president of the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social at the time. Corporación Fischel was a major supplier.

The relationship looked promising enough for reporters to start digging.  The Caja runs the hospitals and the clinics.

What reporters and prosecutors found was the former president, Rafael Ángel Calderón Fournier, obtained a $9 million commission on the deal with medical manufacturers in Finland.

The result is that Vargas, Calderón, and six associates, including Fischel executives, have been on trial since November facing a litany of corruption and bribery charges.


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Wisconsin firm to focus on Costa Rica medical tourism
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A Wisconsin firm has created a new division to concentrate on medical tourism to Costa Rica.

The firm is HSA Clearing Corp. of Lake Geneva, which said it is the leading provider of health savings account educational services to financial institutions, employee benefit companies and health agents.

The company is promoting Costa Rica as a place where a North American can save hundreds if not thousands of dollars on medical care, the firm said.

It cited a study by the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions that said U.S. residents traveling abroad for medical cases are expected to increase 700 percent from 750,000 in 2007 to 6 million in 2010.

"While many medical tourism providers are recommending travel halfway around the world to places like India and Singapore 12 time zones away, Costa Rican Medical Care is focusing only on the excellent care available in Costa Rica,  a beautiful, friendly country much closer to home and in
the Central Time Zone," the firm said. "Costa Rica has the
competitive advantage of geography, a stable economic and political system and an international reputation for the quality of its health care system.

Many millions of people pay for health care out of their own pockets, said Tim Morales president of HSA Clearing Corp. These may be high earners who have the health savings accounts or no insurance at all. He added:

“Many of our banking customers are self-insured. Having a cost-efficient alternative to high cost care in the States will mean lowering costs for these institutions. For example, a hip replacement can cost as much as $70,000 in the U.S. However, the same procedure in Costa Rica, including all tests, surgery, physician costs, rehabilitation, and follow-up care in the U.S., travel, lodging and meals in Costa Rica can run about $15,000 — all costs included”

The firm mentioned these possible reasons to visit Costa Rica: bariatric surgery for weight control, angioplasty, heart by-pass, hip and knee replacement, ophthalmology and medical check ups, dental surgery and care, cosmetic and plastic surgery.


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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, March 5, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 45



A.M. Costa Rica

users guide


This is a brief users guide to A.M. Costa Rica.

Old pages

Each day someone complains via e-mail that the newspages are from yesterday or the day before. A.M. Costa Rica staffers check every page and every link when the newspaper is made available at 2 a.m. each week day.

So the problem is with the browser in each reader's computer. Particularly when the connection with the  server is slow, a computer will look to the latest page in its internal memory and serve up that page.

Readers should refresh the page and, if necessary, dump the cache of their computer, if this problem persists. Readers in Costa Rica have this problem frequently because the local Internet provider has continual problems.

Searching

The A.M. Costa Rica search page has a list of all previous editions by date and a space to search for specific words and phrases. The search will return links to archived pages.

Newspages

A typical edition will consist of a front page and four other newspages. Each of these pages can be reached by links near the top and bottom of the pages.

Classifieds

Five classified pages are updated daily. Employment listings are free, as are listings for accommodations wanted, articles for sale and articles wanted. The tourism page and the real estate sales and real estate rentals are updated daily.

Advertising information

A summary of advertising rates and sizes are available for display and classifieds.

Statistics

A.M. Costa Rica makes its monthly statistics available to advertisers and readers. It is HERE! 

Contacting us

Both the main telephone number and the editor's e-mail address are listed on the front page near the date.

Visiting us

Directions to our office and other data, like bank account numbers are on the about us page.



Computer scammer given
four-year U.S. prison term

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Concluding the first prosecution of its kind in the nation, a man associated with the “botnet underground” was sentenced late Wednesday to 48 months in federal prison for using his “botnets” — armies of compromised computers — to steal the identities of victims throughout the country by extracting information from their personal computers and wiretapping their communications.

The man, John Schiefer, 27, of Los Angeles, used the online handle “acidstorm,” said the U.S. Attorney's Office there. He pleaded guilty last year to accessing protected computers to conduct fraud, disclosing illegally intercepted electronic communications, wire fraud and bank fraud.

When he pleaded guilty, Schiefer admitted that he illegally accessed hundreds of thousands of computers in the United States and that he remotely controlled these compromised machines through computer servers. Once in control of the zombie computers, Schiefer used his botnets to search for vulnerabilities in other computers, to intercept electronic communications and to engage in identity theft.

In connection with the wiretapping scheme, Schiefer admitted that he and others installed malicious computer code, known as malware, on zombie computers that captured electronic communications as they were sent from users’ computers. Because victims with compromised computers did not know that their computers had become infected and were bots, they continued to use their computers to engage in commercial activities, such as making online purchases.

Schiefer’s spybot malware allowed him to intercept communications sent between victims’ computers and financial institutions, such as PayPal, the court papers said.

Schiefer also admitted stealing information from numerous computers by accessing the PStore, which is intended to be a secure storage area of computers running Microsoft operating systems. To accomplish this, Schiefer installed malware on computers that caused them to send account access information, including usernames and passwords for PayPal and other financial Web sites, to computers controlled by Schiefer and others. Schiefer used that information to make unauthorized purchases using funds transferred directly from victims’ bank accounts.

Finally, Schiefer admitted defrauding a Dutch Internet advertising company with his armies of zombie computers. Schiefer signed up as a consultant with the advertising company and promised to install the company’s programs on computers only when the owners of those computers gave consent. Instead, Schiefer and two co-schemers installed that program on approximately 150,000 zombie computers whose owners did not give consent. Schiefer was ultimately paid more than $19,000 by the advertising company.

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