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These stories were published Thursday, April 3, 2003, in Vol. 3, No. 66
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Another high-interest firm worries its investors
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investors of yet another high-interest investment operation are becoming increasingly concerned because payments are three months past due, and a lawyer said Wednesday he is preparing a legal case.

The investment operation is the Costa Rica Green Fund operated by Tom Jafek with offices in the Mercedes Tower on Paseo Colon.


A Villalobos letter BELOW!


The lawyer, Gregory Kearney Lawson, said Wednesday that he is representing at least one investor who has not been paid monthly interest since December.

The operator of another investment firm said that he had received about 65 telephone calls from Green Fund investors after Jafek put that firm’s name in a letter he sent to clients. Jafek has left Costa Rica and moved to Panamá, this man said.

Kearney said his client was promised 3 percent per month. The client had been promised interest payments several months in a row but the Green fund did not follow through on the payments, the lawyer said.

Of particular concern to investors is the Green Fund Web site. That site said in December that members of the firm had gone fishing and would return after a vacation.  Now the site, www.costaricagreen.com, says: "We are temporarily removing the information here. If you have any questions or wish to contact us, please mail to: contact@costaricagreen.com."

There is no other information.

Compared to other investment operations, the Green Fund has modest holdings. Several investment operators estimated the total amount of investor capital to be about $10 million. Kearney said his client suggested this amount also. Many investors are foreigners.

Logo of Costa Rica Green from Web site

Jafek could not be reached Wednesday. A man at the Green Fund office said he did not know when or if Jafek would return there. He refused further information, saying he was not a receptionist.

Jafek’s cell telephone is not accepting messages because the message box is full, according to a recorded voice. A call to his home was not answered nor was an e-mail message.

In the past, Jafek has told reporters that rumors about the instability of the fund were false. In a January e-mail he said that although the fund had investments with Luis Enrique Villalobos and Savings Unlimited, the failure of those firms had not hurt the bottom line.

Jafek said he took the fund’s money from Savings Unlimited before that operation folded. He also said he had a minimal amount of money with Villalobos.

Villalobos folded his operation Oct. 14, less than four months after investigators raided his offices and the adjacent office of Ofinter S.A., a money exchange firm run by his brother, Oswaldo. Luis Milanes, the principal of Savings Unlimited, left the country in late November after cleaning out the office. Both Luis Enrique Villalobos and Milanes are international fugitives. Villalobos may have had $1 billion in investor funds on his books. Milanes may have had up to $260 million.

The investment strategies of the Green Fund are unclear. In January Jafek said the fund was involved in tourism and hotels. He also said he had a plan to dramatically reduce vehicle traffic in San José. 

". . . we are for real and heavily committed to being here . . .," Jafek said in his January message.


 
Gone
with
the 
Wind

Natalia José, 
a Desamparados
youngster, struggles
with laundry
in high winds. 

But winds are 
diminishing. 

See story
BELOW!

A.M. Costa Rica photo
Police grab bandits who tricked helpful drivers
By Bryan Kay
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A gang of truck thieves used women to lure drivers into a trap, according to investigators.

Agents arrested four members of the gang suspected of attacking trucks transporting coffee in Siquirres Tuesday. They grabbed a fifth man Sunday in Guápiles.

The arrests were in connection with a series of coffee truck robberies at a point east of San José.

Two of the detained individuals were women, both 24. One is Nicaraguan and the other is Costa Rican. The Judicial Investigating Organization said the women were used as lures to initiate the attacks. 

According to investigators, one of the two women would pose in need of help by carrying a large box near a highway. After securing the help from the truck driver, the woman would 

lure the driver to what he was told was her house. 

Three males would intercept the driver. They would then demand the driver’s personal belongings before stealing the truck.

There are three cases in which the police suspect the gang’s involvement: one in Guápiles, one in Limón and one in Siquirres.

The women were identified by the surnames Jiménez and Rivas, the Nicaraguan. The men were identified as Arias, 33, Guillen, 37, and Jiménez, 35.

The investigation into the case will continue because officials do not know to whom the stolen coffee was sold. Also, the officials believe that there may be other people involved.

The Siquirres-based officials working on the case are coordinating with other agents around the country that dealt with similar cases. 

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U.S. patrol boats get the right to visit Costa Rica
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Three U.S. ships have been granted the right to dock in Costa Rica. Members of the Plenario Legislativo voted to permit such access as a measure to support the war on drugs Wednesday, but opponents of the war in Iraq said that this permission in no way changed their position on that conflict.

Rogelio Ramos, minister of Seguridad Pública, requested the permission for U.S. Coast Guard visits in a note presented March 26 to the legislative body, according to a press release from the legislature. 

The access granted to U.S. ships is linked to a treaty between the United States and Costa Rica that joins them in the war on drugs, according to the release. The United States and Servicio 

Nacional de Guardacostas are involved in joint operations off the coast here seeking out drug smugglers.

The measure to allow the docking of U.S. vessels is continually brought up for review here. This go-around the measure passed with 37 votes in favor, according to the release.

The boats have been granted docking rights during April and the crews can have liberty ashore. Such legislative permission is required by Costa Rican laws.

Carlos Ricardo Benavides, a member of the Partido Liberación Nacional, said the position to allow the dockings should not be confused with the parties position on the war in Iraq, according to the release. That party is opposed to the war there but supports the drug war.

U.S. takes a shot at telecommunication barriers
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services
and the A.M. Costa Rica staff

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. trade representative has spotlighted foreign barriers to telecommunications markets.

One case that drew attention is that of México. Costa Rica was not mentioned in the report, but U.S. officials are known to be unhappy with this country’s monopoly telecommunications network.

However, even as late as Tuesday, a statement from Casa Presidencial said that outside access to Costa Rica telecommunication markets would not be permitted. The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad will continue as the monopoly provider along with its subsidiaries.

The issue is critical because Costa Rica is now engaged in a negotiation for a free trade treaty between Central American nations and the United States. Telecommunications is believed to hold a high priority with U.S. negotiators.

The discussion of the Mexican situation came in an annual report that cited the recent U.S. challenge brought in the World Trade Organization against Mexican barriers but also describes Mexico as "beginning to develop possible solutions."

A press release issued about the report says some countries charge unjustifiably high prices for connecting U.S. networks with domestic telecom networks. 

Listed as examples were Argentina, the Dominican Republic, Germany, Japan and Switzerland, as well as México.

Australia, France, Germany, Mexico and Singapore lack reasonable access to leased lines, the report said.

Mexico's government allows favored domestic companies to break domestic telecom rules, according to the report, adding that the United Kingdom, Italy and Germany have made progress in reducing telecom barriers.


 
Peace activists plan
to continue protests

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Activists here are not letting up as more protests are being planned against the war in Iraq, and a student organization has announced its opposition.

Members of a political science group at the Universidad de Costa Rica issued a statement criticising the war effort. The group called on Costa Rica to restate its official position on the war and reclaim its standing as a promoter of peace.

Costa Rica is listed as a partner in the "coalition of the willing," as the group of nations that support the war is called.

The political science group asked that the government form a policy of supporting dialogue in the United Nations. 

Centro de Amigos para la Paz is one of the groups most outspoken against the war. The San José-based organization has been protesting since well before the war headed into its current hot phase.

The group issued a statement it said was for mass diffusion calling on all interested parties to join in a series of protests in Alajuela and Palmares.

The friends of peace gave two main objectives for their protests. The group also wants to convince Abel Pacheco to take Costa Rica’s name off of the list of willing coalition partners. Also, the group wants an end to the war.

The friends of peace said in a release that a petition is being formed to be presented to the Asamblea Legislativa. The Comisión Costarricense de Derechos Humanos will present the petition to the main legislative body of Costa Rica if enough names are gathered, according to the release.

Friday a candlelight vigil is planned at Parque Juan Santamaría in Alajuela starting at 7 p.m. Saturday. Sunday petitioners will be out in Palmares collecting signatures.

A group called Soñemos Alajuela is in the planning stages of an event in Parque Central de Alajuela which will involve artists and the general population. The group intends to cover the park with painted cans. Each can is to be painted with a theme of world peace, according to the release from the center of friends for peace.

Centro de Amigos para la Paz meets Wednesday at 4 p.m. to continue the anti-war campaign planning. The office is in central San José near Plaza de la Democracia. 

Security officials
to examine kite

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

What strange things are landing near Matina.

A resident, one Ubaldo Urtecho Espinoza, showed up at the police station there to report that he had encountered a strange object on the Finca 4 Millas, some 20 kilometers (about 12 miles) from Matina.

According to the subsequent police report, the object was like a kite and bore a drawing of the U.S. Flag.  It was more than six feet long and had attached a cardboard box, banners and some wires. 

Whatever it was, the object was not from outer space. It had writing that said some parts had come from Finland.

Officials from the Seguridad Nacional were to inspect the package, said police.
 

Hijackers capture 
Cuban boat off Florida

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

MIAMI, Fla. — Hijackers have taken over a Cuban pleasure boat in international waters off the state's southernmost tip.

It is not clear how many people were on board the boat when it was seized early Wednesday. International news sources quote a Federal Bureau of Investigations official as saying hostage negotiators are on their way to the scene.

This is the second Cuban hijacking in two days. On Tuesday, a man claiming to have two grenades hijacked a Cuban airliner on its way to Havana and forced the pilots to take the plane to Key West. The grenades were found to be fake.

The hijacker surrendered to authorities upon arrival in Florida, and is being held by police. 

South Korean chips
subsidized, says U.S.

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Department of Commerce has made a preliminary determination that semiconductors imported to the United States from South Korea were subsidized.

In a release Monday, the department calculated that the net subsidy rates for these dynamic random access memory semiconductors ranged up to 57 percent.

If the finding is upheld, the U.S. government will apply import duties to offset the purported subsidy.

Ex-top cop’s son
held in robbery

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Agents arrested the son of a former director of the Judicial Investigating Organization on a robbery charge Wednesday morning. During the arrest a man suffered a gunshot wound, presumably from the weapon of an agent.

The arrested man is Rafael Angel Guile Higo, son of the former director of the same name. The Judicial Investigating Organization is the top investigating unit in the country and is attached to the judicial system.

The man was arrested at his home in Curridabat. That’s where a man identified by the surname Fallas suffered a wound to his foot. The current director of the organization, Jorge Rojas Vargas, ordered an investigation by the Oficina de Asuntos Internos, according to a spokesman for the agency.

The crime involved the attempted hijacking of a truck filled with money in February.

Winds and rain
will diminish today

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The strong winds and rain in the Northern Zone and along the Caribbean coast were expected to diminish today.

These areas and Guancaste were hit with raging winds and in some cases heavy rain. Roads were blocked by landslides in several places including the main San José Guápiles highway north of the Zurquí Tunnel.

Winds as high as 140 kph (some 87 mph) were clocked near Lake Arenal Tuesday. Strong winds, spawned by a cold front over the southern United States, continued to hit the country Wednesday. But they had become less violent by evening.

Guanacaste also suffered from the winds and rain. Low sections around Limón were flooded with as much as three feet of water.
 
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Pot sweep destroys plants in the High Talamanca
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The marijuana harvest has been in full swing in southern Costa Rica in the mountains inhabited by Indians. But the harvesters are police agents who say they have made a dent in the country’s marijuana supply.

Some 34 agents from various agencies worked for 22 days to clear marijuana, which is a principal cash crop for the impoverished Indians in the Talamanca region. Sometimes they had to walk for a day to get to where the plants were growing.

The U.S. government supplied several types of helicopters and crews to carry personnel and donated supplies for the Indians from Valle de La Estrella to the High Talamanca, according to a report from the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.

This is the 12th such effort since 1998, and the ministry said that 7.4 million marijuana plants have been destroyed during that period. This latest effort resulted in the destruction of 290,000 plants, according to the ministry.

The Talamanca is a rough area with few roads. Many of the Indians there do not speak Spanish. While the marijuana was being destroyed, Indian families were supplied with clothing, corn seed, farming hand tools and medicine. The ministry said the idea is to substitute marijuana production for traditional corn production. Some 354 Indians received medical attention, the ministry said.

Members of the Comando de La Estrella, who are Cabécar Indians, were transported with other agents and served as translators, the ministry said.

Participating units were the Policía de Control de Drogas, the Unidad de Intervención Policial, the Servicio de Vigilancia Aérea and the Dirección de Sanidad. Also involved was the Fiscalía in Limón, the public prosecutor.

Some of the communities involved were Alto Telire, Cartagena de Valle de la Estrella, Piedra Meza and Cerro Duva Kicha.

A ministry spokesman said that far from being an individual occupation in the Talamanca narcotrafficking organizations have taken control.


 
Our reward offer is still $500

Louis Milanes

Luis Enrique Villalobos Camacho
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 warrants.  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.

Investor says that Villalobos betrayed his friends
Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Fools in investment,

It is abundantly clear, after seven months of not receiving a dividend check, no communication from Enrique, that we are indeed, vanquished.

Enrique has demonstrated, not by word, but by deed, the metal that he is made of. He has, in fact, abandoned those whom he once described as 'his friends."

ENRIQUE could have contacted investors thru his attorney, or thru personal letters or thru A.M. Costa Rica. ENRIQUE has demonstrated to all of us that he does not care, does not want, to communicate with those who believed in him. Ain't that a trip?!

You all best understand, this guy has abandoned his only brother, to languish in a jail. HIS BROTHER! Brothers and sisters in indebtedness, if Enrique abandoned his own blood to languish, you can't be surprised that he would abandon friends, can you?! Well, can you!?

The reason why you folks don't speak out in this matter is because you think that the fellow that you consider a saint, will behave more like a villain; will send you nothing of your investment. Hmm. Saint.

Last word; 'Will see to it that you don't receive a thing if I am arrested or if I die.' You got it, folks? Paula, his 20-some-year-old bride gets you hard earned investment. Love ya', Paula!

How many of you can truthfully say that you never, ever, lost sleep, never pondered what if, what if Enrique failed to respond to his responsibility?! Alas! None of you. None of you can tell me today, that you never ever considered Enrique not responding to his responsibilities.

Aren't you all amazed!? As you read that other investors in trust mention what you all suffered?! Checks, checks from Enrique that failed to clear?! How many of you didn't suffer from the same dang experience?! Enrique failing to deliver?!

And you continue to believe that this guy is your friend?! Grow up. Grow up and admit to yourself, friends and family, that this guy done whatever, had no regard for you, ever. No. Not ever.

Enrique spoke with the eloquence of the angels. However, when asked to respond as a child of God, Enrique abandoned us. 

In the vernacular of the United States Marine Corps, Enrique is a maggot. And you, dearest investors?! Of course, we all are Enrique's hosts.

If you all think that the lawyers and associations who advertise here and there are going to bring you your money back, you are dumb. Really dumb. 

Realize that honest, can I be saying this?! Honest lawyers demand one third of the booty. Kids! The folks who you all think represent you?! They will accept $250 and even mutter that they will accept 2.5 percent of YOUR investment as their revenue. Don't you realize that these guys will never have to earn, have to earn, what you all put into their pockets?! Be wise! Be wise, fellow investors!

We are victims. Enrique is a felon. He stole our hard-earned investments. God has nothing to do with it. Enrique has not communicated with you. Enrique has not communicated with his only brother. 

Enrique? Enrique be damned. And investor folk? He will. Enrique will be damned. He really thinks that he is going to be able to mutter to God, "Sorry. Didn't mean to hurt anyone." FACT! Enrique knows that he is responsible for the deaths of the German and the Massachusetts guy and yet, he leaves all of us in harm's way. 

As for you, Enrique? You will certainly go to Hell. God, The Lord, will never accept the notion that you, Enrique, can employ His name and screw those who believed in you. Enjoy the journey, Enrique.

Bill McWade
Spring Valley, N.J.

An invitation to enter our photo contest
The first A.M. Costa Rica photo contest welcomes your submissions and will award a prize of $100 in each of five categories.

The deadline for submission is April 15. The contest was announced in November.

Five categories have been established:

1. DEADLINE NEWS: A news photo that shows a breaking news event, such as, but not only, crime, accidents, fires, arrests.

2. SCENIC: Landscape scenes which may or may not include people as a secondary emphasis.

3. WILDLIFE: Photos that have as their principal subject one or more animals, plants or insects. 

4. SPORTS: A photo related to one of the major or minor sports, team or individual.

5. PEOPLE:  A photo that has as its principal emphasis one or more persons, including individual portraits. 


Deadline is April 15

BASIC RULES: The photo must be taken by the person who submits it, and he or she, as a condition of submission, agrees to give A.M. Costa Rica the right to publish the photo in A.M. Costa Rica. Upon publication, the photo will be covered by A.M. Costa Rica’s copyright, which the newspaper will happily assign back to the contestant upon request. As a condition of submission, the contestant affirms that he or she owns full rights to the photo and that it has never before been published in any professional medium.

The photo must have been taken within the borders or territorial waters of Costa Rica between Nov. 15 and the contest deadline. 

Only one entry per photographer is allowed in each category. Judges reserve the right to place the photo in another category during the selection process.
 
Employees, shareholders or interns with A.M. Costa Rica may not enter the contest. 

This is an open competition. No distinction will be made between professional and amateur photographers.

A.M. Costa Rica, at its option, will publish photos and information including the name of the photographer, as submissions are made.

The management of A.M. Costa Rica and judges are the final authority on contest rules and submissions.

TECHNICALITIES: The photos must be sent digitally via e-mail to 

editor@amcostarica.com, and the subject line must specify "photo contest." Within the body of the e-mail, the contestant must specify into which category the photo is submitted. The photo should be between 4 and 8 inches in width and contain no less than 72 pixels per inch of density. Each photo should not be larger than 200 k.

The e-mail message must clearly state the name and the circumstances surrounding the taking of the photo and the date the photo was taken. 

The photo should be in jpeg format and sent as an attachment with the file name as the number of the category in which it is being submitted followed by the name of the photographer.

For example, the file name of a photo in the sports category taken by Mr. Jones would be 4jones.jpeg or 4jones.jpg

PRIZES:  A first place winner will be named in each category, and the prize will be $100 paid via Pay Pal, the electronic fund-transfer system.


 
 
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