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(506) 2223-1327        PublishedThursday, June 19, 2008, in Vol. 8, No. 121        E-mail us
Jo Stuart
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Luis Milanes surrenders himself
By José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

One of Costa Rica's most sought men, Luis Milanes, surrendered himself to law officers Thursday afternoon at Juan Santamaría airport. He faces an allegation of fraud.

Milanes, who closed down his high interest Savings Unlimited operation in November 2002, was accompanied by his lawyer, Álvaro Jiménez. He arrived on an airplane from El Salvador. The local office of the International Police Agency (INTERPOL) said he had been spotted in El Salvador and that they were waiting for the plane.

The surrender comes as the economic crimes unit of the Ministerio Público is moving toward a formal charging of others who have been linked to the Milanes operation.

Savings Unlimited, which had offices in Centro Colón, was a rival of Luis Enrique Villalobos, which also offered up to 4 percent interest to individuals who deposited cash. While Villalobos offered his creditors Bibles and folksy comments, the Milanes operation, headed on a daily basis by Michael Gonzalez, was more formal. There was a cashier's window and etched glass entry doors.

Unlike Villalobos, who never said what he did with the money, Milanes said he invested the money in his casinos. He owned a number, and his associates, who stayed in San José, continued to operate them in his absence.  He also manufactured slot machines.
Luis Milanes
Luis Milanes in INTERPOL photo

Milanes, a tall, large man, was a poker expert and even competed in the tournaments he staged.
Villalobos was the target of a law enforcement raid, and boxes of evidence were confiscated. When Milanes closed up his offices over a weekend, they were cleaned out down to the paint on the walls.
Oswaldo Villalobos Camacho, the brother of Luis Enrique, has been convicted of fraud and sentenced to 18 years. Luis Enrique continues to be a fugitive.

Principal president among those under arrest, too
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The same U.S. marshal effort that led to the arrest of Gerard Latulippe also captured Latulippe's associate, Elwyn Ralph Jacobs, in Florida.

Two different divisions of Operation Falcon detained the fugitives, both of whom were wanted to answer an allegation for frauds involving a company they set up in San Jose, Principal
Services, S.A., according to an Interpol release issued Tuesday.
Jacobs, 82, may have been the president of Principal Services, but his exact role is unclear.

Both Jacobs and Latulippe are in federal detention centers in the U.S. awaiting extradition to Costa Rica, where they could face up to 12 years in prison, according to the release.

Principal Services, which was presented to clients as a hedge fund, promised monthly interest payments to lenders equal to 1 to 4 percent of the loan.

Woman injured in Guanacaste accident has hope that she will walk
By Jeremy Arias
of the A.M Costa Rica staff

A new hope has replaced the fear and uncertainty that followed Melissa Ardire's tragic car accident and robbery last week as the American citizen, who doctors originally said may never walk again, claims that a full recovery may be in sight.

“Today was the first day without the excruciating pain,” Ms. Ardire said when contacted over the phone from her room in Hospital México Wednesday, “I have a little bit of movement in my left leg, but my right leg not so much”

Originally confined to a bed with little to no access to steady pain medication she desperately needed, close friend Ricardo Micali said every day was a struggle for her. Ms. Ardire is now out of bed in a wheelchair and expects to head back to the States within a week for a long recuperation.

“I'm very, very lucky.” She said, explaining that doctors, who originally feared she would not survive surgery, now estimate she could be walking again, albeit with a back brace, within four to five months.

Ms. Ardire is more enthusiastic.

“I'm hoping for three,” She said optimistically, “It sounds like a good number.”

Ms. Ardire, who broke her back at the L-12 and G-1 vertebrae according to relatives, was driving a rental car with her son Alex when she lost control of the vehicle near the Puente de Amistad to the east of Nicoya.

They were on their way to a catch a flight from Juan Santamaria airport to meet friends in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, she said. Alex suffered only minor injuries. The accident occurred around 5:30 a.m. last Monday.

“It felt like the front end dropped and the steering wheel jerked to the right and then jerked to the left, then back to right,” she said, adding that she
felt herself thrown from the car before losing consciousness. “The next thing I know I was lying on the ground and I couldn't move.”

There has been speculation that Ms. Ardire's car was sabotaged by the criminals who robbed her. The robbers may have placed something in the road to deter the car.

Ms. Ardire herself remembers little of the robbers, who called an ambulance on her cell phone before stealing it and fleeing along with her money, passports, and the tires from the car, which may have been removed to hide evidence that they had been sabotaged.

Ms. Ardire recalls waking up briefly and seeing the robbers.

“I remember one person leaning over me, and I kept calling my son's name,” she said, “I heard someone say 'we have the baby' and then next thing I remember was hearing sirens and then being loaded into an ambulance.”

Following several hospital transfers and an anxious surgery at Hospital México, Ms. Ardire faced the additional stress of her lightly-medicated post-operative pain and an inability to communicate in Spanish with the medical staff.

Eventually her family, including aunt Susan Gdovin, arrived in Costa Rica and purchased pharmacy painkillers and a bilingual aide to help. Ms. Ardire's relatives, who flew back to New Jersey Wednesday with Alex, but who will return shortly, could not be reached for comment.

Despite her horrific experience here, Ms. Ardire, an employee at the Frog Pad rental business in Villa Tortuga, Nosara, said she plans to return to Costa Rica soon after her recovery.

“I want to come back to Nosara,” She said. Ms. Ardire has been living in Costa Rica for about four years according to her family. She said: “I consider [Nosara] our home, everyone is just so wonderful there.”

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Another policeman is held,
but one is let go in Limón

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators have set free one policeman and detained another in what appears to be a case of mistaken identity. The arrests involved the murder of two young men in the Sixaola area early Saturday.

Released was a Fuerza Pública officer with the last names of  Cortez Madriz. But a policeman with the last name of Jiménez was detained. Both arrests are believed based on the testimony and identification of Ricardo Armando Dixon Obregón, 25, one of the two men who survived the killings.

This is the case in which police said officers of the Fuerza Pública arrested and then turned over to a rival drug gang four men early Saturday.

The case is a public relations disaster for the Fuerza Pública because it suggests that local officers were deeply involved in the Caribbean drug trade.

Gerardo Lázcares, vice minister in the security ministry, and Erick Lacayo, director general of the Fuerza Pública, were traveling to the Provincia de Limón today to personally inspect the situation.  The Judicial Investigating Organization is handling the case, but the entire Cahuita station of the Fuerza Pública has been suspended and replaced with officers from San José.

The investigation is expected to probe deeply into the history of the police operations in the area, including the murder of one Fuerza Pública officer at the Tuba Creek checkpoint a year ago. Five persons were put on trial in that case, but they were found innocent.

Big hike in coca production
report for areas of Colombia

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The head of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime is urging comprehensive, large-scale and ecologically-friendly agriculture and forestry schemes in coca growing areas after a new survey shows a marked increase in cultivation in the Andean region.

According to the 2007 Andean coca survey, released Wednesday, the total area of land under coca cultivation last year in Bolivia, Colombia and Peru was 181,600 hectares, a 16 per cent increase over 2006 and the highest level since 2001.

The increase was due to a 27 per cent rise in Colombia, and smaller increases of 5 per cent in Bolivia and 4 per cent in Peru.

“The increase in coca cultivation in Colombia is a surprise and shock: a surprise because it comes at a time when the Colombian Government is trying so hard to eradicate coca; a shock because of the magnitude of cultivation,” said  Executive Antonio Maria Costa, director of the Office on Drugs and Crime.

The survey also points out that nearly half of all cocaine production and one third of the cultivation come from just 10 of the country’s 195 municipalities. “Just like in Afghanistan, where most opium is grown in provinces with a heavy Taliban presence, in Colombia most coca is grown in areas controlled by insurgents,”  Costa noted.

However, even with the rise in coca cultivation, cocaine production in Colombia — the world’s biggest producer — remained almost unchanged in 2007, according to the survey.

The findings highlight the need for greater investments in alternative livelihood programs, stressed the director. Coca cultivation in Bolivia, for example, rose in regions such as La Asunta and the Yungas de La Paz, which have seen little investment in development. At the same time, regions like Alto Beni that have received support for alternative livelihood schemes have been able to reduce coca cultivation, he said.

The U.N. report adds that price increases for products such as coffee, palm oil and cocoa, which are being grown under alternative development programs, have convinced many farmers in Peru not to replant eradicated coca fields. In Colombia, the agency is supporting the Forest Wardens Families Programme in assisting farmers who make a commitment to voluntarily eradicate coca, while promoting reforestation.

Embassy veteran's address
in state of continual change

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Some retired U.S. military veterans are a little confused because the U.S. Embassy keeps changing the address for their mail. Such veterans and military retirees are entitled to receive their mail through the embassy at an APO address.

Mel Goldberg, vice commander of the American Legion Post 16, said that he spoke with an embassy worker who told him that the embassy address was being changed at least one more time. Goldberg's advice to veterans was to do nothing until the embassy mailing address is finalized. The older address still will function with mailings until October, he said.

Eventually the embassy will have a new APO address at which time mail users can make the change.

Suspects in vehicle theft found

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Fuerzas Pública said its officers detained two men who are accused of stealing a car belonging to tourists on Playa Sámara on the Nicoya Peninsula. The suspects were located in Heredia by a company that has installed a tracking device on the vehicle, police said. Two 9 mm. pistols were found in the car.

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Chere Lyn Tomayko loses her last bid to avoid extradition
By Elise Sonray
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

After many appeals the U.S. woman accused of  kidnapping her young daughter lost her last chance to stay in the country. The Sala IV constitutional court ruled that the woman, Chere Lyn Tomayko, who has lived in Costa Rica for at least eight years, will be extradited back to the United States within two months, said a court spokeswoman.

But, added the Tribunal de Heredia, if authorities do not extradite Ms. Tomayko in two months time, she will be immediately released as in accordance with state requirements.

Ms. Tomayko has appealed her case to various courts at least four times, according to judicial documents. This last appeal was her final chance at getting off, said the court spokesman. Ms. Tomayko had also pleaded refugee status to immigration officials, said an immigration police director, although he would not give details of the plea.

In court documents Ms. Tomayko filed domestic violence charges against her previous boyfriend, Roger Cyprian, her daughter's father. The documents stated that Ms. Tomayko fled the United States out of fear.  In an  October interview with the girl's father, he said that he had been searching for his daughter for 10 years and had gone to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for help. Cyprian said his daughter Alexandria “had been supplied with 10 years of misinformation about me from Ms. Tomayko, and I believe if she is allowed to read just a little of the other side of the story, it might make a difference in her life.”
Tomayko, was detained in September because she took her daughter out of the United States against the order of a Texas court. The U.S. federal indictment alleged that Ms. Tomayko kidnapped her daughter Alexandria Camille Cyprian in May 1997 and took her away during a parental custody battle.

Ms. Tomayko had been living in Heredia and teaching at a school for a number of years. Her habeas corpus court documents state that she has maintained an 8-year-long relationship with Javier Francisco Montero Umaña in Costa Rica, and has two young daughters as a result of that relationship: Ana Sofía Montero Tomayko, 5, and Ariana Nicole Montero Tomayko, 7.  The extradition of Ms. Tomayko would, “injure the rights of the minors . . . leaving them without the protection of their mother” reads her third appeal to the constitutional court. It continues, “the stress they (the daughters) have seen and been put under in this process has caused them reduced health.”

The Heredia court added that Ms. Tomayko has the right to bring her personal belongings and documents as well as evidence received by the tribunal, said a court spokeswoman.

An official at the U.S. Embassy here was told in May 2002 where Ms. Tomayko was living but no action took place. The official asked A.M. Costa Rica not to publish the information for a time, and the newspaper complied for a year.

The current consul general at the embassy, David R. Dreher, has blamed the FBI for not following up, a claim that FBI agents in Texas deny. 

big tree wont die
A.M. Costa Rica/José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
Tree that has
nine lives

The giant cieba tree on the grounds of the foreign ministry seems to have a new lease on life.

Although officials said in mid-May that the tree was doomed, it still is standing. Workers hacked off a few branches but then the effort stopped.

The Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto, which had put out a number of releases justifying cutting down the tree has not explained why the tree still is standing. Initially officials said that the roots of the tree had been damaged by construction.

This is just not any tree.  The 100-foot tree was a gift from the former president of Guatemala, Ydígoras Miguel Fuentes, during the visit of John F. Kennedy and other presidents in 1963.

Employer group proposed a 6.58 percent wage increase
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

This is the time of year when representatives of employers and work representatives negotiate an increase in salaries.

The negotiations are before the Consejo Nacional de Salarios, which makes the final decision.

Wednesday they proposed a 6.58 wage hike. The increase would take effect July 1. The increase would apply to the
minimum wages specified by the Ministerio de Trabajo. The wages are legally binding.

The employers group said that the inflation from January to May was 5.08 and that the inflation projected for June was less than 1 percent.

Worker representatives are expected to argue that the real cost of living has increased much more, thanks to major hikes in the cost of petroleum.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, June 19, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 121

Dominican and Costa Rican officials meet on trafficking
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Immigration officials held a meeting with Dominican authorities Wednesday seeking to stem the influx of illegal and quasi-legal residents of that country.

Immigration of women from the Dominican Republic has been tied to human trafficking. There is a proliferation of false documents and also fake marriages with Costa Ricans.
Sources in Santo Domingo said that the Dominican immigration agency has begun an investigation into  trafficking and prostitution in Costa Rica.

Adonaida Medina, the Dominican ambassador in Costa Rica, was among those at the meeting.

Dominican and Colombian prostitutes have displaced local women in that occupation.

Petroleum imports bust the budget, Casa Presidencial says
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The central government said that the importation of petroleum is a budget buster and fuel sucks up all that the country makes by exporting bananas, coffee, meat and sugar.

Rodrigo Arias Sánchez said that the country had to pay $1.5 billion for petroleum imports in 2007 and that this year the amount will be $2.8 billion. That is about equal to the foreign exchange generated by exports.
Costa Rica gets all its fuel oil from abroad because it declined to become a petroleum exporting country and help Harken Petroleum develop an off shore project in the Caribbean.

Harken is now suing the country in an international body because its concession was pulled.

Arias said that the government soon would issue decrees restricting motor vehicle travel downtown and also restricting the entry of heavy trucks during certain hours.

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

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

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


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


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


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

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Escazú developers get
$100 million commitment

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Riverside Developers has announced that MortgageIT, Inc., a subsidiary of Deutsche Bank, has agreed to make available $100 million in residential mortgage financing to qualified purchasers of properties at luxury resort projects developed by the Escazú firm.

“MortgageIT’s commitment to our projects, Sonesta Jacó Resort and Ocean Whisper at Tambor Beach, will allow us to facilitate the purchases for our buyers,” said Joshua ten Brink, general manager of Riverside Developers.

”We are pleased that, with MortgageIT, customers will now have a streamlined process to acquire mortgage financing that will provide top-notch customer service with extremely competitive rates. We are convinced that the MortgageIT program will substantially increase our sales velocity and volume as well as customer satisfaction. The quality of service that MortgageIT provides has not been available in Costa Rica until now.”

"The growth of the second home real estate market in Costa Rica has been very impressive,” said Doug Naidus, managing director and global head of lending at Deutsche Bank.

Riverside Developers is recognized as one of the premier local development firms in Costa Rica. The company has won the Bentley International “2005 Best Development in Costa Rica” award for its Riverside Condominium project in Escazú, the “2006 Best Development in Costa Rica” award for its Bayside Tambor project in Tambor, and the “2007 Best Development in Costa Rica” award from CNBC for the Sonesta Jaco Resort. The company is developing the Sonesta Jaco Resort, Ocean Whisper, and currently has over 750 residences in planning and construction throughout the country.

Fidel Casto images appear
on Cuban television

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Cuban television has broadcast the first public images of Fidel Castro since January. The images, of Castro together with Venezuela's President Hugo Chávez, show the former Cuban leader dressed in a running suit. The 81-year-old Castro appears frail but still energetic.

The images were broadcast with no audio.

Cuba's state-run newspaper Granma, which also ran pictures of the former leader, said Chavez and Castro held wide-ranging talks on "themes of transcendent importance" like the global food crisis, energy, and the financial markets.

The newspaper showed pictures of the two leaders embracing, talking, and admiring a painting of Latin American liberation icon Simon Bolivar. The ailing Fidel Castro stepped down in February after ruling Cuba for nearly 50 years. He was replaced by his younger brother, Raúl.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, June 19, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 121

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