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(506) 223-1327             Published Monday, May 21, 2007, in Vol. 7, No. 99              E-mail us    
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Former Horseshoe Casino owner
Internet real estate chief snagged in online scam case

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Law officers arrested the president of a Costa Rican real estate Internet marketing operation Friday on a U.S. fraud charge related to other online activities.

He is Jaime Ligator, 65, president of World Wide Land Investments which has offices on the third floor of Mall San Pedro.  Ligator also is known as a professional poker player who participated in North American tournaments and as the former owner of the Horseshoe Casino, which recently changed hands.

Agents of the International Police Agency (INTERPOL) and the Judicial Investigating Organization said they arrested Ligator at a Mall San Pedro office on a warrant from the U.S. District Court in the Western District of North Carolina.

The charges are electronic fraud and wire fraud, said agents. The case involves some 36 co-defendants, said a statement from INTERPOL. The charges involve alleged participation in an advanced fee lottery scam in which U.S. citizens were contacted by telephone and told that they had won a lottery, they said, but they did not disclose Ligator's alleged role in the operation.

The victims were told they had to send money via Western Union to "Lloyds de Costa Rica," said agents. The amounts were usually in the thousands of dollars, agents said. Naturally no lottery payoff was forthcoming.

The information relayed from the United States said that most of the telephone calls were made from San José but that by using voice-over-Internet protocol, those getting the call thought that they originated in Washington, D.C., at the 202 area code.

In multiple raids by law officers here May 17, 2006, three U.S. citizens and two Canadians were arrested as alleged directors of an advanced fee lottery scam. At the same time five persons were detained in California.

As many as 200 bilingual Costa Ricans were believed involved making telephone calls from the city to potential victims in the United States. This group handed out lottery tickets at supermarkets and shopping centers in the United States, so that those being called had had previous contact with the fake lottery, officials said then.

No verification could be made over the weekend that this is the group linked to Ligator, and there are several other advance fee scams that have been broken up recently.

Still agents said information from the United States said that in Ligator's case callers told victims that they were associated with the mythical "lottery commission of the United States." This was the same fake agency used by those arrested last year. Ligator's arrest warrant was issued just this March 17, agents said.

The former casino owner will be involved in extradition hearings in the Tribunal de Juicio de San José where a lawyer for the United States will present the case for his transportation there. He was identified as a U.S. citizen.
jaime ligator
INTERPOL photo
Jaime Ligator

 
There was no reply to calls placed to World Wide  Land Investments Saturday. There also is no contact information on the registration for the two Web sites run by the company: wliofcr.com and costaricalandowners.com. The company says little on its Web sites, and is believed to engage in telephone solicitations of potential purchasers in the United States.

One man who contacted A.M. Costa Rica over the weekend said that he had paid the company $90,000 for some land. He said he had a signed letter from Ligator verifying the company's promise that he would receive a full refund if he were not satisfied with the land. The man said he visited the site but was not happy with the property and sought a refund but so far only got back $50,000.

World Wide Land Investments said it is selling ocean view lots on land on the east coast of the Gulf of Nicoya near the settlement of Colorado. This is north of Puntarenas and south of the location of the friendship bridge, the Puente de Amistad, over the Río Tempisque. One Web page is accompanied by a female voice that says the property is just south of the Four Seasons Hotel.

Actually the Four Seasons on the Gulf de Papagayo is about 28 kilometers (some 17 miles) as the crow flies north of the location.

The voice also promises a panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean, but the ocean cannot be seen from the upper Gulf of Nicoya, although the view of the gulf is picturesque.

The firm says this on its Web site about its inventory:

"World Wide Land Investments has been in business for almost three decades. We pride ourselves on hand selecting land that is Appreciating in Value. The land we have selected in Costa Rica is right in the Path of Costa Rica's Development. We have land available on both the Atlantic or Pacific Coasts. All of our properties have either ocean and mountain views or direct ocean views.



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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, May 21, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 99

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RESIDENCIES AND RENEWALS 
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Emergency officials keep
their eyes on rainy weather


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Emergency officials are nervous as they face the first test of the rainy season.

Weather officials say that two low pressure systems are poised over the country. One comes from the Caribbean and the other from the Pacific.

The rain has been minimal in most of the cities, but the mountains have been drenched.  Three persons died Friday afternoon when a wall of mud and water carried off their car at Cot de Oreamuno, Cartago. One of the dead was an infant.

The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional said that the unstable weather conditions will continue through this morning with much of the rain hitting the Caribbean slope. The Central Valley can expect severe thunderstorms in the afternoon, according to the forecast.

Some low areas already have been flooded, but they were the result of local heavy downpours. Little rain was registered at official weather stations Sunday.

Concessionaire will operate
new southern zone airport


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The government will seek to find a concessionaire to run the proposed international airport at Palmar Sur, according to Rodrigo Arias Sánchez, minister of the Presidencia who toured the area over the weekend.

Both he and Carlos Ricardo Benavides, the Turismo minister, expressed confidence in the commercial and tourism potential of a new international airport. The new airport has been talked about for years, but a concession will be necessary to get the operation going because the government does not have the money to run it.

However, the government is coming up with 600 million colons (about $1.2 million) to finance a feasibility study of the plan.

In a related announcement, Fernando Berrocal, minister of Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública, said some 300 million colons (about $577,000) would be invested in refurbishing the police stations in the cantons of Osa, Golfito, Buenos Aires, Corredores and Coto Brus. The money is being made available by the Junta de Desarrollo Regional de la Zona Sur, the regional development agency.

Berrocal also said that there would be 150 new tourism police on the job in the area by the end of the year.

Our readers opinions

Reader thinks Villalobos
should be allowed to repay


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:
 
RE: Villalobos verdict
 
A travesty of justice! This is an understatement. I read a summary of each day's testimony and have followed this case from beginning to the end of the trial. I now understand why Costa Rica is referred to as a "Banana Republic." The only things lacking is the "Gestapo," which may have been created with the raid of the offices of the Brothers, and the abusive action of the prosecutor and judges.
 
What is fair about any of the actions of the government? The government blames the loss of funds to investors on "The Brothers," who met their obligations for 20 years, until the government intervened, forcing them to close. If anyone is to blame for investors losses, it is the government.
 
The "Tico" judicial system is antiquated, and corrupt. There was no compassion for the investors shown by the system. A simple solution to the problem would be to allow Villalobos to pay his debts and drop all charges. Of course, that would make the government liable, would it not? Which, like most governments, never admits to wrong doing.
 
I hope you have the courage to print this.
 
Ken Brown
Leeds, Alabama

EDITOR'S NOTE: We have the courage to print it even though we disagree on every point.  We think that prosecutor Walter Espinoza saved would-be investors from giving from $10 million to $50 million to what the court said was a Villalobos Brothers Ponzi scheme. The country should have acted much sooner.

We followed the trial, too, and only disagree with the judges on one point: We would have voted guilty on money laundering, too, because the whole setup was designed for that purpose. The slogan was: "If anyone comes around asking about you, we don't know you." The slogan now is: "If you come around looking for your money, we don't know you."

San Pedro bar safety said
to be job of the mayor


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:
 
I read the A.M. Costa Rica today, and I also saw this news on tv.
 
Unbelievable  what the mayor says: ".......that the municipality is not responsible for the safety of the bars. That's the job of the Ministerio de Salud.....".
 
I think every mayor is responsible for the safety of their citizen. Probably Mr. Fernando Trejos Ballesteros doesn't have the guts to close these bars immediately.
 
Last week there was a fire in a hotel in San José. How about the emergency exits ?
 
First a big accident has to happen before people get in action. There was a small incident recently but not enough for a lesson?
 
Mr. Fernando Trejos Ballesteros seems to be a politician by pointing his finger to others (Ministerio de Salud) rather then being a city father. He did not learn from the past, many similar accidents happened all over the world. He should be discharged immediately !!!

Bart van Gennip.
San Rafael de Alajuela

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, May 21, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 99


Good grief!

Are you still spending 70 percent 
of your advertising budget on paper?

You need to fill this space ASAP!

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Green cards will not be issued based on family ties
Proposed U.S. immigration rules could have big impact here

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
and special reports

The proposed U.S. immigration reform package will eliminate green cards for relatives of citizens and shift the emphasis to a merit-based immigration system.

Visas for parents of U.S. citizens are being capped, while visas for siblings and adult children are eliminated., said the White House.

The proposal, which was the result of a bipartisan legislative agreement has broad implications for U.S. expats who live in families with mixed citizenship.

If enacted, the proposed plan would provide a path to citizenship for those who have entered the United States illegally.

Certain familiar features of the U.S. immigration system would vanish under the proposal, including the Diversity Lottery Program and U.S. permanent resident cards for siblings and adult children of U.S. citizens and holders of what is known as a “green card.”

New features would include a parents’ visitor visa enabling parents to visit children in the United States regularly and for extended periods, a Z visa or four-year, renewable work visa for those present within the United States illegally before Jan. 1, 2007, and a temporary worker program.

Under the current U.S. immigration system, two-thirds of all green cards are granted to relatives of U.S. citizens. The proposed new system, according to Michael Chertoff, secretary of Homeland Security, calls for most green cards to be based on a merit system that counts heavily education, employment skills and experience in the United States. “Family [ties] will come in as a tie-breaker,” Chertoff said in a White House briefing.

Those who applied for green cards on the basis of family ties as of March 2005, however, would be processed within eight years under the old rules. “If you waited [in] line, we're not going to change the rules of the game on you; we're going to let you get in under the rules of the game as they then existed,” said Chertoff, adding that dealing with the so-called family backlog was a matter of “basic fairness.”
Chertoff explained how the plan would work for those undocumented workers who have not committed crimes.

Those who entered illegally would be able to get a probationary visa to continue to work while a background check is completed. Once certain border-security requirements are met, a Z visa would be issued for four years allowing the holder to work in the United States and to make visits to his or her home country. Those applying for a Z visa would pay a $1,000 fine, pass a background check, remain employed, maintain a clean criminal record and receive a counterfeit-proof biometric identification card.  

If the holder of the Z visa met all its conditions, which include paying taxes, the visa could be renewed for another four years. After the second renewal — that is, after eight years — Chertoff said the U.S. government would ensure that there would be enough green cards available “so that anybody who has paid the fines that are required, satisfactorily completed two terms as a Z visa worker, gone back home and filed an application — we'll be able to accommodate those people who qualify, getting green cards within the following five years.”

A Z visa holder applying for a green card would be required to pay an additional $4,000 fine, to complete certain English language requirements, to return to his or her home country to await processing while the current backlog clears and to demonstrate merit under the merit-based system, according to a White House fact sheet on the proposal.

There would be a cutoff date for Z visas for people who are undocumented.  “The only people who will be eligible to get a Z visa as a person who is here illegally is someone who arrived in this country prior to January 1 of 2007,” Chertoff said, adding that applicants would have to prove they were present in the United States prior to the cutoff date.

The bipartisan agreement has not yet been introduced in Congress as proposed legislation. Once it is, details could change as the bill works its way through House and Senate committees or when it is brought to the floor of the House and Senate for debate. If the House and the Senate pass different versions of the bill, the two would have to be reconciled and passed again by both chambers before the final version is sent to the president for his signature.


Generally optimistic phrase says humans can achieve
De médico, poeta y loco, todos tenemos un poco.

"Doctor, poet and lunatic, we all have a little of each." This dicho teaches us that we all can be inspired given the right circumstances, even someone like me, whose talents certainly do not run to the poetic. I am, as Cole Porter once wrote:

     At words poetic
     I'm so pathetic
     That I really have found it best
     Instead of getting them off my chest
     To let 'em rest, unexpressed. 
 
But even I, as most certainly did the modest Mr. Porter, have had my poetic moments. Many years ago when my twin brother died, for example, I grieved for him inconsolably. I was very bitter and angry that he had been taken from me. Out of this grief and anger, I produced dozens of poems.
 
Two years ago my older brother also passed away. After the funeral, when I was going through his personal belongings I found some of those poems of mine that my brother kept. To them he had added some of his own to make a very affecting collection.
 
Costa Ricans are always giving out free medical advice. My niece is especially apt at this, and as soon she hears someone sniffle she's there with some time-honored home remedy. But because she's an animal fancier, and one of her best friends happens to be a veterinarian, I sometimes wonder if perhaps some of her remidies come from her experiences tending to sick pets rather than people.
 
Once when I was going for my annual physical checkup, this niece advised me to take lots of linasa dissolved in water in order to lower my blood pressure. "That way," she said, "the doctor won't scold you." Though I do feel that there is something to the belief that linasa can lower blood pressure, I explained to my niece that I'd rather be scolded by my doctor than hide a potentially dangerous medical condition from him.
 
My grandmother, who was of indigenous background, liked to refer to herself as a "medicine woman." She had curatives for every ailment. I think this is where my niece inherited her talents. When my grandmother was sick, however, she could never be convinced to take any of her

The
way we say it

By Daniel Soto



own nostrums. She claimed that because they were her own medicines they would not work on her. I never quite understood the sense of this ancient logic. In any case, when grandmother herself got sick, we usually ended up taking her to see a qualified physician.
 
But I think that there is a slightly more metaphorical
meaning than all of this behind today's dicho. What it is actually telling us is that people can be inspired to do good through their ability to empathize with their fellow humans' suffering. When someone is sick, we have a natural human impulse to want to make them feel better. When someone is in trouble, it is natural for us to want to help out.
 
And now we come to the crazy or loco part of the dicho. I think there are two kinds of loco, the good kind and the bad kind, and most people are capable of at least a little of both.
 
Of course, everyone needs a touch of madness to keep life interesting. This is the zany kind of loco that makes us do things on impulse like running off to Rio on the spur of the moment for Carnival or inspires us to play elaborate practical jokes on our friends.
 
The bad kind of loco, on the other hand, is the kind that can turn people into monsters capable of enormous hatred and cruelty toward their fellows. This is the kind of loco which, when unleashed, can produce an Adolph Hitler or a Joseph Stalin. Some daemons should always be kept securely under wraps.


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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, May 21, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 99


Uribe orders stepped-up effort to find hostages held by rebels
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe has ordered the military to step up efforts to find a French-Colombian national and three American contractors held hostage by leftist rebels.

Uribe ordered the intensified hunt Friday for former Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt and the Americans.

Betancourt was abducted by the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia in 2002 while campaigning for the presidency.  The American trio were seized a year later after their plane went down during a counter-narcotics mission.

Uribe's order was made over the objections of the French government and Betancourt's family.  They fear that any military action against the rebels could put the hostages' lives in danger.


Uribe issued his order after authorities found a Colombian  policeman who had been held hostage with Betancourt and the U.S. contractors.

The policeman, Jhon Frank Pinchao, recently escaped from the rebels after more than eight years in captivity.  He was abducted in 1998 when rebels raided the southeastern town of Mitu, killing some officers and taking 60 people hostage.

Pinchao says the kidnappers have punished Betancourt for trying to escape.  He says he last saw her and the American captives April 28.

The former hostage said Thursday in Bogota he fled a rebel camp and spent 17 days walking through the Amazon jungle before a police patrol found him. Pinchao says the hostages were moved from one camp to another every few months.  The rebel group has been holding about 60 political prisoners for several years in the hope of trading them for hundreds of rebels held by the government.


U.S. extends greetings to Cuba on the 105th anniversary of its independence
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

President George Bush has extended his greetings to all who are celebrating the 105th anniversary of Cuba's independence.

In a statement released Sunday by the White House, Bush said the United States remains committed to extending the full blessings of liberty around the world. He said the U.S. stands with all freedom-loving people in the conviction that
Cuba's future must be one of dignity, liberty and opportunity.

The president said the anniversary of Cuba's independance is also a day to recognize the contributions of generations of Cuban Americans.

On May 20, 1902, the Cuban republic was inaugurated. On that date, the United States ended its occupation of the island following the Spanish-American war.


Italian citizen scheduled for deportation to face fraud charges in Italy
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

An Italian citzen wanted for bankruptcy fraud in his own country has finally been detained here and scheduled for deportation.

The man is  Gabrio Cappelli, 52, who avoided deportation on a previous occasion when officials said he entered the country on a fraudulent passport. They said he appealed his case to the Sala IV constitutional court and was allowed to go free while the court considered his request.

When magistrates found against him, police did not locate him, they said.

Law enforcement was embarrassed this week when the
 Spanish-language La Nación disclosed that the man operates a security firm that has full approvle from the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.

The Policía de Migración quickly found him in Barrio  María Auxiliadora in Desamparados.

Cappelli has said that someone robbed his identity in Italy and committed the crime to which he must answer, said police. He maintained his innocence in an interview with La Nación.

Italian police have told police here that Cappelli is facing allegations of fradulent bankruptcy, altering account books, commercial fraud and circulation of altered money, events whick took place between 1993 and 1997, they said


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