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(506) 223-1327               Published Monday, May 14, 2007, in Vol. 7, No. 94              E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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Yes, there is more paperwork
A real estate checklist for AFTER the purchase

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

Real estate buyers need a good checklist to stay out of trouble when buying property in Costa Rica.  However, most people forget about what needs to happen afterwards.   Here is a checklist for after the closing.

First, the property needs to be transferred at the Registro Nacional.  This is the notary’s job, but many do not rush to get it done.  Many drag their feet for days, weeks and some even months.  This is dangerous.  An unscrupulous seller can sell a property to someone else, or even sell it repeatedly.  Sure, that is illegal, but it happens, and the first buyer has hell to pay to get the property back.  When property is purchased in Costa Rica, transferring it to the new owner immediately is a must.

The Registro has been a mess lately.  Transferring property can take time.  The most important step is to get the paperwork presented.  In Costa Rica, the first in line is first in right.   First in line, means, having the Registro stamp the paperwork with a date and a “tomo” and “asiento” number.

Yep, amazing but true, in a multiple property selling scam, the first to get the paperwork stamped at the National Registry is first in right.  Go figure.

Second, when the property shows up transferred at the Registro and is in the name of the new owner, one needs to get four original certifications — five originals in case the property is part of a condominium — of a certificación literal and a catastro of the property and a personería of the owner, if the owner is a company.  All property should be in the name of a company and not in the name of an individual.  However, if the owner is an individual, a certified copy of the identification document used to purchase the property is required.

One copy of the documents goes to the electric company and another to the water company to change the names on the billing accounts.  Many people never do this and find that one day they need to get the service changed or modified and they run into a brick wall because the institutions will not make changes to accounts not in the name of the correct owner.

The third copy goes to the municipality where the property is located to change the municipal account information.  Municipalities collect property taxes and other fees on properties.  At the municipality, it is necessary to fill out a form, too, updating the declared value of the property.  Most people do not fill in the real value.

For a condominium, a copy needs to go to the
post purchase checklist

condominium association so administrators can update their records.

Phone lines are a different story.  Before Sept. 29, 1995, phone lines were an asset and owned. Now they are leased to users. It is difficult to get the phone company to change the name of an account. However, it can be done by filing a “gestoría de negocios” with the phone company.

If one buys a property with a phone line, he or she should get a special power of attorney from the previous owner of the line so changes can be made to the service.  

Without a power of attorney, the phone company — in its wisdom — wants a new owner to turn in an existing line and be put on a waiting list — which can take years — to get a new line.

Most new property owners just keep the existing line under the name of the previous owner.  It is a good idea to be put on the waiting list so when another line comes available, the new owner can get another line in the correct name.

The left over copy should be filed for future reference or for when one of the institutions calls and says they have lost their first set — which invariable happens. Its part of living in Costa Rica.

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 2007, use without permission prohibited.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, May 14, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 94

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California man surrenders
in long-running lottery scam

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

A California man has surrendered to federal authorities after being named with four other defendants in an indictment that accuses them of taking more than $25 million from victims who thought their money was being pooled to purchase lottery tickets that offered the chance to win huge prizes.

Three of the persons named in the scam are or were in Costa Rica, and this country was used as a base for part of the fraudulent activities, said U.S. officials.

The man who surrendered, Scott Henry Walther, 31, made his initial court appearance Wednesday afternoon in U. S. District Court in Los Angeles. Walther was released on a $25,000 bond and ordered to appear for an arraignment on July 2.

Walther and his co-defendants were indicted by a federal grand jury Feb. 28. The indictment alleges 11 counts of mail fraud and 12 counts of money laundering.

Investigators estimate that victims lost approximately $20 million during the scheme, which ran for more than 15 years until it was shut down by federal agents in July 2006.

Through companies located in Costa Rica, The Netherlands and other places, the defendants allegedly mailed more than 1 million solicitations that fraudulently offered people an increased chance of winning foreign and domestic lotteries such as “The Australian Lottery,” “The International Irish Sweepstakes,” and “The NY Super 7.” The solicitations claimed that people could purchase “positions” in lotteries that would be grouped together, or pooled, to buy larger blocks of tickets in a given lottery or horse race, said the government.

The solicitations falsely indicated that participants in the pool had a nearly guaranteed chance to win millions of dollars and that previous participants in the pool had already won millions of dollars, said the U.S. government. According to the indictment, the solicitations misrepresented that the companies were backed by governmental or legitimate lottery entities.

As part of the scheme, the solicitations claimed that winnings were invested into trust or pension accounts that would pay monthly pension checks until the end of the victim’s life, and then would pay a survivor’s benefit as if the money were a life insurance policy, said the indictment.

The other defendants named in the indictment were identified by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Los Angeles as:

• Sonny Vleisides, 36, who lived in Costa Rica at the time of the scheme but was arrested in Florence, Italy on a provisional arrest warrant April 19;

•James Ray Houston, 61, who is believed to be in Costa Rica;

• Dennis Emmett, 59, who is currently serving a prison term in Costa Rica; and

• William Cloud, 57, who was arrested in Amsterdam on a provisional arrest warrant April 21.

A sixth defendant in this case, Santa Monica attorney Henry Walther, who is Scott Walther’s father, pleaded guilty on March 6 to mail fraud and international money laundering. Henry Walther, 62, who lives in Pacific Palisades, faces a maximum possible sentence of 40 years in federal prison.

Victims of the scheme were directed to send their money to mail drops in Ireland, The Netherlands and other locations, where participants in the scheme returned the money to the United States. From domestic bank accounts controlled by Henry Walther and others, some of the money was sent back to victims who were told that they were receiving “winnings,” even though the “winnings” were far less than the amount of money sent in by victims, said the indictment.

Teen dies recovering ball

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An informal sports game turned to tragedy Sunday afternoon at Parque La Sabana when a 15-year-old jumped into the lake and drowned.

The victim was identified as Jonathon Ruiz of Alajuelita.

There was no clear reason for the death, which took place in about six feet of water. The boy was trying to recover a ball which had gone into the water. The weather was sunny and hundreds were in the park.

Another increase in fuel price

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The price regulating agency has approved another increase in petroleum products. Super gasoline will go from 568 to 584 colons (about $1.12) a liter and diesel will go from 375 to 390 (75 U.S. cents) a liter.

The Autoridad Reguladora de los Servicios Públicos said Friday that the new prices probably would take effect next Saturday after they are published in the La Gaceta official newspaper. Liquid petroleum gas, kerosene and aviation gasoline also increased.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, May 14, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 94

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Man who took hostage generates sympathy for family
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Central Asian man who triggered a hostage situation at the Embassy of the Russian Federation Friday has captured the hearts of some Costa Ricans.

The man, Roman Bogdawynt, 21, took a man hostage because he thought that the man cheated his family on a real estate deal.

Bogdawynt encountered the man by accident at the Russian Embassy in Barrio Escalante Friday shortly after noon when he and his mother, Tatiana, arrived at the embassy seeking some kind of financial help.

The family appears to have invested its savings, some $30,000 in what was supposed to be a pineapple farm, and now they are broke.

Costa Ricans showed up at the family's second-floor apartment in San Antonio de Belén this weekend to offer aid, and the Russian community is pitching in, too.

Roman Bogdawynt and his family are ethnic Russians who  lived in Kyrgyzstan, the former Central Asian Soviet republic. They have been living here since 2005 as refugees, in part because they are Russian Orthodox Christians.

Roman Bogdawynt even got a break from a judge. The prosecutor involved in the case sought a six-month term of preventative detention for the suspect. Instead, a judge in
the Juzgado Penal del Segundo Circuito Judicial allowed him to go free Saturday night under conditions that he not leave the country and that he sign in every 15 days.

The family also is believe to have signed a complaint against the man who was held hostage, identified as Andrey Yurenkov.

The situation at the embassy generated a lot of confusion. Russian Ambassador Valery Dmitrievich Nikolayenko tried to clarify the situation in a television interview Friday night. Speaking in perfect Spanish, the ambassador said the encounter between the two men was accidental. He also said that only one person had been taken as a hostage, but at least eight employees, including himself, at the embassy stayed inside, partly for security. He said he helped with the negotiation that ended the four-hour siege.

Originally reports said that nine persons had been taken hostage.

There also still is confusion as to where Bogdawynt got a pistol. Nikolayenko said the man stripped the weapon from a guard when he was chasing Yurenkov. Other reports said that Bogdawynt had the weapon on his person.

Even Casa Presidencial reported the contradictory fact that the family was from Uzbekistan.

Bogdawynt is facing an allegation of kidnapping for money because he demanded that the family's money be returned as a condition of releasing his hostage.

Language parochialism still lingers from Middle Ages
Hablar (o decir algo) en Cristiano

"To speak (or say something) in Christian (language)." One rarely hears this expression any more. It has it roots back in the 14th and 15th centuries when the Spanish were busy driving the Arabs (Moros) and Jews (Marranos) out of the Iberian peninsula. Since the languages of these peoples were largely unintelligible to the Spanish, they considered them barbaric, pagan and therefore un-Christian. To say something in Christian meant, of course, to say it in Castellano, which today is commonly referred to as Spanish.

But recently I heard a new variation on this ignorant old utterance. The night last month that I arrived back in the States from Costa Rica, I was collecting my luggage at the Indianapolis International Airport when suddenly a large man standing near me bellowed at a small group of people "talk American!"  Judging from the yarmulkes on the men's heads, the folks this oaf was addressing appeared possibly to be a family of Israelis. In any case, after a moment's stunned silence, they went on talking among themselves in what sounded to me like Hebrew. Whereupon this shameless bozo thundered forth again, "You're in America now . . . . You ought to talk American!" But by this time the Jewish family was making its way toward the exit and appeared to take no further notice of this self-appointed language cop.

I wondered what this man's reaction would have been had I addressed him in a real "American language" such as BriBri, the language spoken by my mother's indigenous ancestors. Of course what he was really demanding was that everyone within earshot must speak the U.S. dialect of English, a language that finds its origins in the British Isles. Clearly people who spoke to one another in a tongue this character did not recognize threatened him greatly, though why other people's private conversations should be any of his concern whatsoever remains — for me at least — clouded in mystery.

Now, before you decide to write an irate letter to the editor of A.M. Costa Rica let me hasten to add I am a firm believer that everyone who becomes a resident or naturalized citizen of the United States should learn to

way we say it

By Daniel Soto

read, write, and above all, speak English. Clearly, a society can not function effectively without a common language. Likewise, I also happen to believe that everyone who becomes a permanent resident or citizen of Costa Rica should learn fluent Spanish. But I do not believe that anyone should be obliged to forget their native language or abandon their culture altogether. These are not a requisites for legal residency in either country, at least not yet.

A dear friend of mine from the U.S. wants to build a house in Costa Rica. He loves the country and can not wait to move to Tiquicia. But his Spanish is very sparce. His use of the small number of verbs that he knows, for example, is limited exclusively to the present tense, but he finds memorizing  vocabulary and studying conjugations to be a bore.  Being the "hands-on" kind of guy he is, however, I can see much frustration and many headaches ahead for him when he starts building his dream house without being able to express his ideas in clear, accurate Spanish to the Costa Rican workers who will be constructing it for him. I also foresee a potentially lonely existence for him if he is unable to make friends. After all, there is not a lot of English spoken around Mata Limón where he has purchased a lot on which to build.

The best way to stamp out a foreign language, I find, is to learn it. Unfortunately, nobody has yet come up with a way to learn most anything worth knowing without working at it.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, May 14, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 94

Still others at large in murder of U.S. citizen Robert Cohen
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A conviction has been handed down in the murder of U.S. citizen Robert Cohen, but the case is hardly over.

Still at large is the U.S. citizen identified as a hit man and the person who arranged Cohen's kidnapping March 6, 2005, according to prosecutors in Limón. And there is the question who contracted the hit man. Suspicion has fallen on a man who lost $7 million here.

As a result of the trial, the possibility emerged that Cohen may have been falsely accused and killed for no reason. Both Cohen and another man were employed by the same development company. But the other man committed suicide and may have been the person who took the money. The money has not turned up, said Cristian Ulate, the prosecutor on the case.

A three-judge court in Limón gave a Honduran citizen 27 years in prison Friday after convicting him in the murder of Cohen. The same panel said there was not sufficient evidence to convict a second suspect, a woman named Anabel Chacón Sánchez. The panel said that her participation in the crime was not clear.

Sentenced was Luis Alonso Douglas Mejía. The panel gave him 25 years for the murder and two years for depriving Cohen of his liberty.
Cohen, 64 at the time of his death, was a developer from Granada, Nicaragua, who was found at the Río Chirripó. The prosecution said that he was abducted, beaten and murdered as a lesson for losing the $7 million in a business transaction.

Cohen was grabbed when he left an Escazú hotel to exercise about 7 a.m. Although he had a development project in Grenada, Cohen was based in Costa Rica.

Ulate said that Cohen had made three telephone calls while he was being held. He made a desperate attempt to disclose his location. He spoke with his wife Susan Cohen and a daughter Alisha Cohen, said Ulate.

In his third and final call, Cohen told his wife that he was going to drink a limonchelo upon his release. That is a mythical drink and a word he made up simply to tell them that he was being held near Limón, said Ulate.

Instead of going free, the evidence showed that Cohen was beaten and tortured before his murder.

Ulate said the man who engineered the kidnapping here was Mathew Francis Nolan, who entered the country on a false passport. He is being sought internationally. However, Ulate said that the U.S. Department of Justice has denied requests for extradition in the case. Instead, if there is any legal action it will be in the United States.

White House makes deal with Dems over free trade treaties
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The Bush administration has reached a tentative agreement with key Democratic congressional leaders, significantly increasing chances that a host of free trade agreements will clear Congress and give a boost to global trade negotiations.

The deal was announced Friday by the Democratic speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, and also by administration officials.

The trade deal with the Democrats removes a major stumbling block to the trade agreements with Peru and Panama, which have languished in Congress, and those with Colombia and South Korea, which have been completed but not yet submitted to Congress.

The main obstacle in negotiations between U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab and chairmen of key congressional committees was the Democrats’ insistence on tougher labor and environmental standards in future free trade agreements, including those already negotiated.

Under the administration-Congress deal, U.S. free-trade partners will have to abide by basic international labor standards outlined in a 1998 International Labor Organization (ILO) declaration. They also would have to
adopt and enforce laws consistent with seven major multilateral environmental agreements.

The core principles in the ILO declaration guarantee freedom of association, the right to collective bargaining, abolition of forced and child labor and the elimination of employment discrimination.

A trade official said in a May 11 telephone briefing the administration expects to come up with proposed changes to the FTAs quickly, “hopefully in the next couple of days.” He would not speculate on the likelihood of those changes being accepted by U.S. trading partners.

He said, however, that winning congressional approval without those changes would be difficult.

Moving ahead will require that Democratic leaders win the support of their rank-and-file for the pacts that some of them consider controversial, and that foreign governments secure approval from their parliaments and constituencies for changes in the texts they considered as final.

The labor provisions in the Panama and South Korea FTAs were left open, but the Peru and Colombia pacts already have been signed in their current form and Peru's legislature has ratified its agreement.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, May 14, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 94

Saprissa chalks up its 25th national soccer championship
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Deportivo Saprissa scored three goals against two by their opponent, the Liga Deportiva Alajuelense, to win the national championship Sunday night.

The evening game was in Estadio Ricardo Saprissa and fans quickly took to the streets of the metropolitan area to celebrate.

This is the 25th time that Saprissa has won the championship cup.

"We are champions," said coach Jeaustin Campos as the game ended. "The Morada fans have to be very proud of the work that this team accomplished. For the moment we celebrate because we are the best of the country." Morada refers to the purple colors adopted by the team.
The team credited Walter Centeno with controlling the mid-field and Alejandro Alpizar for opening areas near the opposing net for the scores.

Alajuelense scored first and the first half ended with the score 1-0. Key Saprissa player Alonso Solís had been expelled from the game in the first half.

Cristian Bolaños evened the score at the start of the second half, but Alajuelense's Víctor Núñez scored again to keep a one-point edge.  Saprissa's Gabriel Badilla evened the score and then put in the winning goal a few minutes later.

Alajuelense failed to capitalize on several scoring opportunities in the second half.

Following tradition, the Saprissa players brought their children with them as they received individual medals.

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