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These stories were published Friday, June 4, 2004, in Vol. 4, No. 110
Jo Stuart
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Scammers use name of I.R.S. to steal data
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Another identity theft scam has surfaced in Costa Rica, and this time the Internet is not the source.

A local real estate broker said he received a FAX transmission that said it was from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, the tax collecting agency.

The document, identifying itself as I.R.S. Form W-8BEN, asked for such detailed personal information as bank account numbers, passport numbers, mother’s maiden name and Social Security number.

The document is supposed to be the way foreigners and non-resident U.S. citizens report tax liability to the I.R.S. and the scammers have been known to warn recipients that a big penalty will be assessed if they do not fill out the form.

In fact, the form is a doctored I.R.S. form, and the Utah telephone number to which it was supposed to be Faxed when completed is that of a scammer.

The broker wasn’t fooled. He did an Internet search and found out that the scam has been around since 2002.

The I.R.S. issued the latest in a series of alerts Tuesday and said the scheme has surfaced in South America, Europe and the Caribbean.

"This is an international variation of an old scheme where scam artists try to get valuable information by pretending to be from the IRS," said IRS Commissioner Mark W. Everson. "Taxpayers should be wary of strangers trying to obtain sensitive personal information, whether it's in person, over the phone, through the mail or over the Internet."

Generally, identity thieves use someone’s personal data to steal his or her financial accounts, run up charges on the victim’s existing credit cards, apply for new loans, credit cards, services or benefits in the victim’s name and even file fraudulent tax returns, said the I.R.S.

The IRS has already advised financial institutions to alert their overseas branches to warn their customers about this scam.

And it is even mightier than the sword
I needed a new pen, so I sauntered into Sauter’s to check out what they had. Ever since I came to Costa Rica I have had a problem buying pens. La pluma, the Spanish word for the French plume (which I learned in school) is how I bought a pen when I lived in Majorca. It never gets me the right object in Costa Rica, and by the time I find the Bic or Papermate that I want, I still haven’t figured out the word for pen. I just take my pen to the cashier and silently pay for it. 

The other two words I knew were lapiz and lapicero. Maybe here one of those means pen. So when the knowledgeable looking fellow came up to help me, my first question was "What is the difference between lapiz y lapicero?"

"Ah," he said, knowledgeably, taking a no. 2 pencil from the rack.

"This is a lapiz" (He spoke pretty good English.) Then he pulled an elegant looking pen from another rack and said, "This is a lapicero."

"Don’t you have any Papermates?" I asked.

"No," He said. We only buy Faber Castell from Germany." That didn’t make me too happy. But he proceeded to show me the wonderful features of this nice slim pen: 

You pushed the top as you put your thumb at the mouth of the pen and the nib came out. I tried writing with it.  It gave a very fine point, which I liked, but it wasn’t very dark. 

Also, the price was 1,700 colons (nearly $4), which is not what I wanted to pay for a pen that I would lose in no time. He said he had had his pen for a year and no problems but I could buy refills very cheaply. 

"How often do you need refills?" I asked. It depends on whether or not you break the point I was told. "You mean the point breaks off?" I asked, amazed. Those Germans, what

Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

will they come up with next? And why?

It was not until he showed me the eraser in case I made a mistake that it began to dawn on me that a lapicero was a mechanical pencil. 

This conversation had lasted even longer than the one I had in Spain with an Englishman who began the exchange with saying (I thought) "What a pity, they’ve changed the Rs in Spain." I said it was more than a pity, it was ridiculous because communication would come to a standstill. He said "Oh, Spain wanted to be like other countries." It wasn’t until I allowed that the good news was I always had trouble trilling the Rs anyway, that he cleared up the misunderstanding: Spain was going to shorten its siesta hours.

This time I just laughed and said, "Actually I just want something simple like a Bic. What do you call those things? 

"Oh," he said. "We call them bolígrafos. (Accent on second syllable, I mentally noted)." "Grafos is from the Greek for writing," he added knowledgeably. "And boli, well, boli….

"Is for ball as in ball point," I said. "That is exactly what I want."

Una pluma, I learned, is a pen that you dip in ink, like the old feather pens.

Paying for my new pen I engaged the cashier in a conversation in which I used the word bolígrafo three times, because that is supposed to be the charm of learning something new. 


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Police raid compound seeking marijuana clues
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Television reports about a religious group in San Gerardo de Higuito de Desamparados resulted in a major police raid Thursday morning and the arrest of two men presumed to be the leaders.

Officials said they found evidence that the group used marijuana but they did not find what they thought would be a number of such plants being cultivated.

Officials blamed the television news reporters for beating them to the site of the raid and by their presence warning the residents in the compound of the impending raid. A press release said officials think the members of the group destroyed the cultivated plants before the raid.

The 10 male and five female members of the group, called the Boboshanti, included three minors. The arrested individuals, identified by the last names and ages of León Chinchilla, 25, and Villalobos Quesada, 19, face investigation on allegations of providing drugs to minors.

In their earlier appearances on television, the turbaned members of the group were seen chanting and wearing Oriental style clothes. Most appeared to be Costa Rican. The turbans worn by the men are believed to conceal dreadlocks.

Also participating in the raid were agents from the Policía de Control de Drogas and the Patronato 

Nacional de la Infancia, the child welfare organization.

In all there are six dwellings in the compound that were raided. Members of the Fuerza Pública tactical squad showed up in force but there was no resistance from the residents, although several yelled at police after two of their number were arrested.

In addition to photos of members posing with marijuana plants, police said they found various marijuana pipes, seeds and cigarette butts.

The three minors, teenagers, were turned over to the child welfare agency.

A release from the ministry de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública said that authorities were concerned by the fanaticism that characterizes this type of group and the damage that some members might cause. This was the explanation for sending an overwhelming force on the raid. 

The Boboshanti Order is based in Kingston, Jamaica, and is a branch of the Rastafari, which is a faith and also a movement mainly among blacks. Rastas generally believe that Emperor Haile Sellassie I of Ethopia is an immortal messiah. Smoking marijauna frequently is part of the religious rites.

Those at the compound Thursday would not be described as black and their actual religious faith was not discussed.

Italian businessman shot
but kills one gunman

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The former owner of the well-known Hotel Petit Victoria in San José was set upon by motorcycle gunmen while he drove in San Francisco de Heredia Thursday evening.

The man, Guglielmo Proietti, an Italian citizen who has lived here about 12 years, took a bullet in the chest but managed to drive his vehicle into the gunmen, killing one. The second fled.

Proietti was said to be carrying money to make a deposit.

Investigators are still uncertain if the incident was a robbery, an effort to hijack Proietti’s car or an assassination attempt. The shooting and subsequent accident took place just before 7 p.m.

The victim went to Hospital San Vicente de Paúl in Heredia.

A receptionist at the hotel confirmed Thursday night that Proietti had sold the business, located on Calle 28 a block south of the Paseo Colón Pizza Hut.

Two from Fischel firm
ordered to be jailed

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The president of Corporación Fischel, Walter Reiche Fischel, and the company lawyer, Randall Vargas Pérez, were jailed Thursday as the investigation widened into the relationship between the medical supply firm and the Caja Costarricense de Seguros Social.

Agents arrested Reiche at his Escazú home. Vargas was arrested in Curridabat. Both face allegations in the possible destruction of documents, intimidation of a witness, and the preparation of a false document, said a spokesperson for the Poder Judicial.

The documents in question are believed to relate to the ownership of the Santa Ana home rented by Eliseo Vargas, the former executive president of the Caja, the nation’s main social security and health agency.

The home is owned by a Panamanian corporation headed by Reiche.

Vargas quit his Caja job when the relationship with Fischel became known.

Environmental festivals
planned for weekend

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Saturday is World Day of the Environment and several organizations will be putting on a concert and promoting environmental themes in the Plaza de la Cultura from noon until 7 p.m.

Meanwhile, at the Museo Nacional, as part of the Festival Madre Fértil Tierra Nuestra a show by Deirdre Hyde will be open to the public. The show, some 40 paintings dedicated to water, will run until June 30, a museum spokesperson said.

Friday, Saturday and Sunday at what is now called the Antigua Aduana in Barrio California. A number of stands will show projects in sustainable development. This event is sponsored by the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo.

Saturday night the festival will present the group Malpaís at the Teatro Melico Salazar at 8 p.m.

Man held on coke count

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police arrested a man Thursday morning in Palmita de Cariari near Pococí and said he was carrying a briefcase containing three kilos of cocaine.

He was identified by the last names of Ampié Solano. Officials said the arrest was made based on information supplied by police at the Barra del Colorado station.

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James J. Brodell......................................editor
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Wheelchairs run up a big bill coming from States
Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

My name is Robbie Felix. I am the president and founder of Fundación Roberta Felix in Manuel Antonio. We are a foundation whose primary purpose is to help handicapped children and their families in the counties of Aguirre and Parrita to improve the quality of their lives. We have built classrooms in public schools in the area for handicapped children and are completing construction of a center for said children that will offer therapy, training and other services.

The reason I am writing this letter is that because a mistake was made at Mailboxes Etc. in Pavas with regard to shipping costs, many of these children will not be receiving donated wheelchairs and therapy equipment. 

A plea for kids by a reader

Mailboxes Etc, called us several weeks ago to inform us that they had received several boxes for us in their Miami facility and wanted to confirm that we would pay the shipping. We asked how much it would be as our resources are at best limited. We also inquired as to the contents of the boxes and were told they were medical apparatus. The guy in charge called us back later and told us it would be $580. We told him that we could pay the $580 and to go ahead and ship the items. 

He called a week later and said it would be $680. We responded that we could pay the $680 but we really didn't have funds to pay any more than that.

The boxes arrived in San José last week. We received a call saying that the "guy in charge" had quit his job and that the shipping was $3,000 plus a customs fee of $150.

As I mentioned, we only authorized the shipping because we thought we could cover the expense. Now the wheelchairs and equipment are here, and basically CANNOT be sent back and we cannot afford $3,000. 

The manager of Mailboxes Etc has offered the equipment to us for $2,500, which is still far out of 

our reach as a small foundation in rural Costa Rica. 

Had we known that the shipping was so expensive, we could have paid to have the boxes shipped back to the sender and re-shipped through a less costly service. At present we have no options. The equipment is here and cannot be shipped back, we cannot afford the shipping and they are not willing to offer us any affordable option that would make it possible to acquire the stuff.

We are in a bind. A group of 16 doctors and therapists are coming from the States to evaluate all of the handicapped children in our area June 21. We are also expecting a large number of Costa Rican students and therapists to attend the children in the same large clinic. There are about 80 kids which were to be given a thorough evaluation by physical, occupational and speech therapists on those dates, and this equipment was to be a major part of that clinic offering.

Basically our wheelchairs and equipment have been kidnapped and we cannot afford to pay the ransom! 

It is a pity as these children are generally rural poor with no resources available to them. Just getting suitable wheelchairs has been an overwhelming task and we were counting on donated materials to run our center . We found the donors and the equipment, and now it will not be available to us. Few of these families have cars, phones or other "luxury items" and have been possibly one of the most marginalized groups in this country. To be further deprived of the benefit of badly needed services is a sad state of affairs. 

I don't know if you can help with this, but we would surely appreciate any efforts on your behalf. On the part of about 100 handicapped children in the area, I thank you in advance for anything you might be able to do for us.

Warm wishes from Manuel Antonio,

Robbie Felix 
President and Founder, 
Fundación Roberta Felix 

'Little Shop of Horrors' is a Country Day satire
By Olivia Jampol and Johnny Liebembuk
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Another Country Day School masterpiece, "Little Shop of Horrors" combines rock and roll, a science fiction "B" movie with some classic Broadway love ballads. 

Kevin Glass, the British and, dare we say, eccentric theatre director and principal of Country Day School high school, has gathered together a group of students and parents and turned them into one of the most dynamic and cooperative teams to ever create such a show in such a short time.

The show they have created together satirizes not only science fiction flicks of the era but musical comedy itself. The team has worked tirelessly to delve deep into each and every character — no matter how strange or clichéd it may be. The plant, "Audrey II," is a series of increasingly large and complex puppets that are wonderfully colorful, but creepy and scary too. They have been designed and built by professional artist and sculptor Margreet Wielemaker and are not to be missed.

This captivating musical begins on the rundown, urban street Skid Row and in Mr. Mushnik's rundown Skid Row flower shop. His down-at-heel shop boy, Seymour Krelbourn, discovers a new and odd (some would say, ALIEN) breed of plant that he names "Audrey II" after his secret love and co-worker in Mushnik's shop, the lovely Audrey. 

The plant has strange appetites and a very odd personality and soon grows to do some terrible 

The cast at work

deeds. The street girls look on and lead us through
life on Skid Row and the horrors that begin to unfold inside its flower shop. The songs are unforgettable and the hilarious dialogue keeps the plot rattling along like an express train.

"Little Shop Of Horrors" is a true testament to the high school principal’s love of drama and theater. These feelings are shared by the cast and company alike. The musical theater event of the year is here and can be seen tonight and tomorrow night at Country Day School in Escazú. 

The show starts at 7:30 p.m. and costs 1,500 colons for students and 2,500 colons for adults. Tickets can be bought in advance from the Country Day School high school office. Call 289-4905.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The authors are student members of the cast. Miss Jampol is Audrey, and Mr. Liebembuk plays the voice of the alien plant.

El Salvador gets big grant to develop system to deal with imports
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Trade and Development Agency has awarded a $387,492 grant to El Salvador in order to pay for technical assistance that will help the Central American country develop a national import processing system, according to a press release.

In keeping with the goals of the U.S.-Central America Free Trade Agreement signed May 28, the grant "will make a difference in the ability of El 

Salvador to realize the benefits of free trade byproviding new opportunities for it to compete in the global market," said agency Director Thelma Askey. The free-trade pact aims to increase trade between the United States and the Central American nations of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.

The grant "reflects the agency's commitment to support trade capacity-building projects that expand a developing country's ability to engage in international commerce," the release said.

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Venezuela likely will have its recall vote on Chavez
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

CARACAS, Venezuela —  Electoral officials say the opposition has collected enough voter signatures to trigger a recall referendum on President Hugo Chavez's rule.

Senior National Electoral Council official Jorge Rodriguez said Thursday that, based on a preliminary count of voter signatures, Chavez opponents will have collected more than the 2.4 million required for the referendum.

Recall supporters say they collected nearly 3.5 million signatures during their petition drive, but the Chavez government had said it was only able to verify fewer than two million signatures. Late last month, recall supporters turned out at voter stations to reconfirm disputed signatures on the petitions.

President Chavez Tuesday accused his opponents of using fraud during their campaign to confirm the signatures. He alleged that some opposition voters may have used false identities and that the names of dead people appeared on the voter rolls.

Electoral officials have said that any referendum will be held in August. The Organization of American States and Atlanta-based Carter Center monitored the petition effort.

The Venezuelan opposition accuses Chavez of ruining the economy and trying to model the oil-rich country after Communist Cuba. The president has said he is working to improve the lives of the country's impoverished majority.

Meanwhile, gunmen here have attacked the office of the city's mayor as tensions flare over the recall effort.

Police say the assailants opened fire Thursday on the office of Caracas Mayor Alfredo Pena, an opponent of the Venezuelan leader, Chavez. One police officer was slightly hurt by flying glass as the bullets shattered windows and lights. 

Groups of rioters, many of them with their faces covered, set fire to cars and trucks in Caracas near the offices of Venezuela's electoral council. They also used public buses painted with pro-Chavez slogans to barricade several streets. 

Elsewhere, Chavez sympathizers fired on the headquarters of the local Radio Caracas Television station while protesters threw stones at the windows. 

Also, attackers mobbed and severely beat opposition lawmaker Rafael Marin in downtown Caracas Thursday. He was rushed to a local hospital with head injuries.

Trinidad and Tobago won't put forces in Haiti, prime minister says
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago says that as of now, the twin-island nation will not contribute troops to United Nations peacekeeping operations in Haiti.

Prime Minister Patrick Manning told reporters Wednesday that there is no shortage of troops going into Haiti. He said the best way to help Haiti is through financial aid, education and opportunities for its people.

Manning made his remarks one day after some 8,000 U.N. troops and civilian police began arriving in Haiti. They are assuming command from a U.S.- led multinational force, which was rushed to Haiti after an armed revolt forced President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to resign and flee the country in February.

The U.N. troops will be under the command of Brazilian Lt. Gen. Augusto Ribeiro-Pereira. Brazil has committed 1,200 troops to lead the operation. The U.N. forces will try to disarm gangs and rebels who threaten security in the impoverished Caribbean nation.

The U.N. Security Council unanimously authorized the new peacekeeping force for Haiti in April. The move also gives the U.N. force the authority to restructure the local police force and organize elections expected to take place next year. 

In a related development, Jamaica is urging Haiti to facilitate the return of hundreds of migrants who fled their country following the armed revolt that forced Aristide out of office.

Jamaican officials say 100 Haitians were to have been repatriated earlier this week, but the trip was canceled because Haitian authorities did not make arrangements to receive them. 

Jamaica has been housing and caring for about 500 illegal Haitian migrants who landed on the island's shores after the February uprising. About 200 have applied for political asylum and are awaiting word. 

The U.S. Coast Guard says 122 Haitians have been repatriated to the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince. The Coast Guard said in a statement Wednesday that the repatriation took place three days after the Haitians were rescued from an overcrowded vessel south of the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Jo Stuart
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