A.M. Costa Rica

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(506) 223-1327        Published Monday, July 17, 2006, in Vol. 6, No. 140       E-mail us    
Jo Stuart
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11 persons associated with BetonSports indicted
Twin U.S. actions seek to end online betting
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
(Posted at 6 p.m. Monday, July 17, 2006)
The U.S. government moved Monday to isolate bettors in that country from BetonSports, the Costa Rican online gambling operation. It also unsealed a complex 22-count criminal indictment against 11 individuals and four corporations, including Costa Rican residents BetonSports chief executive David Carruthers, 49, and Gary Kaplan, whom they identified as the founder and shareholder of the firm.

In a parallel action, a federal judge, responding to a civil injunction request,  ordered four U.S. telephone companies to cut off telephone calls to BetonSports here in Costa Rica and told the gambling firm to return to U.S. bettors money held on their behalf. The civil injunction also told the company to put notices on its Web sites telling U.S. residents they could not place bets or gamble.

The U.S. government also is seeking $3.3 billion in back taxes on wagers taken from the United States and $4.5 billion more from Kaplan and other defendants.

Arrests were made in the United States. FBI and Internal Revenue Service agents detained Carruthers Sunday afternoon at Dallas international airport as he was changing planes on a flight back to Costa Rica from England.

Neil Scott Kaplan, 40, identified as Kaplan's relative, is in custody in Ft. Pierce, Florida, said the U.S. Attorney's Office in Missouri.

A man identified as Tim Brown was arrested near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and was to be released on $150,000 bond Monday. Carruthers faces a detention hearing Friday morning at which bail is likely to be a topic. He is an outspoken advocate of regulation of sportsbooks instead of prohibition. He went before a federal magistrate Monday afternoon in Fort Worth, Texas, to set the date of the detention hearing.

The criminal indictment alleges that Gary Kaplan and Norman Steinberg, as the
owners and operators of Millennium Sportsbook, Gibraltar Sportsbook, and
North American Sports Association, took or caused their employees to take bets from undercover federal agents in St. Louis, who used undercover identities to open wagering accounts.

The indictment also alleges that Kaplan and a firm named Mobile Promotions illegally transported equipment used to place bets and transmit wagering information across state lines and that DME Global Marketing and Fulfillment shipped equipment to Costa Rica from Florida, for BetonSports.com.

Also charged are William Hernan Lenis, Monica Lenis and Manny Gustavo Lenis, owners and operators of the Florida
 companies, and William Hernan Lenis’ son, William Luis Lenis, according to the U.S. Attorney's office in the U.S. state of Missouri.

Despite the federal action, a spokesman for BetonSport in Mall San Pedro said late Monday afternoon that the company was working normally. The spokesman said that lawyers had been consulted.

The company says BetonSports.com is one of the largest licensed and publicly traded online wagering companies in the world. Many of its 2,000 employees work at the Mall San Pedro offices. The company occupies seven floors there.

Online gambling and sportsbooks are a major source of jobs for bilingual Costa Ricans.

Police arrested four employees of Mobil Production outside Tampa's Raymond James Stadium in October. They were soliciting wagers ranging from $25 to $100,000, said a report in Online Casino News.

Carruthers was quoted at the time saying that the betting is completely legal because the bets are placed in Costa Rica and other offshore sites, where gambling is allowed. Police disagreed.

"Illegal commercial gambling across state and international borders is a crime," said U.S Attorney Catherine L. Hanaway of the Eastern District of Missouri in announcing the indictment. "Misuse of the Internet to violate the law can ultimately only serve to harm legitimate businesses. This indictment is but one step in a series of actions designed to punish and seize the profits of individuals who disregard federal and state laws."

Warrants have been issued for Gary Kaplan and others who have not been arrested, including Lori Kaplan Multz and Peter Wilson, identified as media director for BetonSports.com.

The broad racketeering conspiracy indictment alleges that the defendants agreed to conduct an enterprise through a pattern of racketeering acts, including repeated mail fraud, wire fraud, operation of an illegal gambling business and money laundering.

It is a tricky legal question if Costa Rica will honor arrest warrants when gambling is not illegal here.

The charges are the result of a joint investigation by Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Tampa Police Department, the Jacksonville, Florida Sheriff's Office and NFL Security and NCAA Enforcement Office also assisted in the investigation, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

BetonSports chief Carruthers is held in Texas
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff
(Earlier story posted at 3:10 p.m. today
David Carruthers, chief executive officer of BetonSports, was in custody before a U.S. federal magistrate in Fort Worth, Texas this afternoon.

Agents from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service arrested Carruthers at the Dallas international airport Sunday afternoon while he was changing planes en route to San José where his company is based.

An executive for BetonSports said that little was known in San José as to why the outspoken Carruthers was detained. He said there was a sealed indictment involved.

The company says BetonSports.com is one of the largest licensed and publicly-traded online wagering companies in the world. Many of its 2,000 employees work at the Mall San Pedro offices. The company occupies seven floors.
The outcome of the hearing before the federal magistrate was not known immediately, although one person familiar with the case said that not much happened. It still was unclear as to the charge or charges involved. A session before a magistrate usually is the first step in a federal court proceeding. A magistrate is a step below a federal judge.

Carruthers was in England to attend the company's annual meeting. It is listed on the stock exchange there. He was accompanied by his wife, who continued the trip to San José, the executive said.

Carruthers has been outspoken against a proposed U.S. law that would specifically criminalize offshore gambling. He wrote an op-ed piece in the Los Angeles Times March 15 entitled: "The industry needs to be regulated, not outlawed."

More details of the proposed U.S. anti-gambling law are HERE!

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, July 17, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 140

Costa Rica Expertise
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Our readers' opinions

Costa Rica, Cuba and U.S.
have little in common

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I read with some amusement the articles by Jo Stuart wherein she compares the benefits of living in Costa Rica, Cuba, and the United States. I have been to all three and am not aware of anything they have in common. Costa Rica is a beautiful country with many positives but there is very little to compare to the U.S. and vice versa.

My answer to Stuart and all the lefties that praise the living conditions in Cuba is this: Yes they have free medicine, education, housing, water, electric, etc, etc, but so do our prisoners in the United States.

A possible method of comparing Cuba with anywhere else might be a measure of how many people are trying to get into the country and how many are trying to get out. A comment I heard years ago from a Cuban soldier sums it up well. "I hate Americans and would go anywhere to kill them, but if there was a bridge between Cuba and the U.S. there would be no one left in Cuba, including me".

It is worth noting that none of the comments Stuart received about Cuba came from Cuban residents.

Ken Orttel
Andover, MN, USA

Info quickly as possible
appreciated by reader

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I have been visiting Costa Rica several times a year since I purchased a small farm there in 1999. Fortunately, I discovered A.M. Costa Rica soon thereafter and have been a daily reader ever since. For the record, I must confess I do not read the daily news in the U.S.  I do keep posted by checking “Breaking News” on the Internet and maybe catching a TV newscast occasionally.  I tend to garner my in-depth reporting from Newsweek and The Economist.  By the way thanks for the inclusion of the BBC news link.  I discovered they have a great online English Course.  I wish I could find something similar offering Spanish.

I do not agree with the sentiments expressed by Ben Lazar (Woodstock, GA., Ojochal, Costa Rica, property owner) regarding the early or extra addition of A.M. Costa Rica to advise of the murder of Carl D. Brainard of Nosara.  I think there are a lot of other readers outside Costa Rica who appreciate having that information as soon as possible, rather than wait for the next edition, often 18-24 hours away.  It is quite likely Mr. Brainard had friends among the A.M Costa Rica readers who were able to respond more quickly, and perhaps more appropriately, to the tragic event because of your early publication.

I, too, deplore the lack of factual in-depth information most often available.  Those of us who have spent much time in Costa Rica understand that nothing, including, factual information, travels very fast in Costa Rica.  Yes, gossip, innuendo and misinformation seem to travel with the speed of lightning, often making the truth even more difficult to come by.

As long as A.M. Costa Rica continues to try to avoid printing speculation and unsupported facts as news, I will continue to look forward to my daily dose.

Bess Herzog
Houston, TX and
 Rio Cuarto, Grecia

Timely not sensational
appreciated by residents

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

We were attending a community dinner when Mr. Lazar’s response in "Our readers opinions" became the topic of conversation. We were all saddened by the death of Mr. Brainard as we are with any American in Costa Rica who meets with untimely death, whether by drowning or violence.

On behalf of all other Georgia residents, we apologize for Mr. Lazar’s comments, those of us that live here year round, and are residents of Costa Rica, appreciate the efforts of A.M. Costa Rica and other English language news organizations to keep us informed.  The reporting of items is not sensationalism but timely news in our language.

We are not just property owners. We live here. We are residents !!!

Ann Hill
Former Georgia Resident
Ojochal, Costa Rica

Another reader appreciates
late-breaking information

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I failed to see any muckraking or sensationalism when rereading the Nosara murder notice. I did not know the victim. But had I known him personally, I would  have appreciated knowing about his demise as soon as possible with as many facts as are available at that time.

Though I have been visiting Costa Rica often over the past 10 years, only since being displaced by Hurricane Katrina and living here for the past several months have I come to rely on A.M. Costa Rica as another source of reliable information.

Please continue to provide "early" or "late-breaking" news.

David Johnson
formerly of New Orleans, LA
currently of San Ramon, Alajuela

Remarkable reporting
noted by another reader

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Ben Lazar wants to be dumb and happy.  He should read The Tico Times. 

I think A.M. Costa Rica's crime reporting is remarkable.  E.g. your coverage of the Pat Dunn murder was timely and of surprising depth, given the distance of the crime from San José.  For me, your "yellow" journalism is
pure gold.
If there's a Pulitzer Prize for cyber-rags, I think A.M. Costa Rica is on its way to winning an award.  Keep up the good work.

Jim Saxon
San Jose 
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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, July 17, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 140

The green mean replaces the golden mean
Bueno es el culantro pero no tanto
“The cilantro is good but not too much.” This dicho has to do with tolerance. If you’ve ever cooked with the herb cilantro (culantro in Spanish), then you know that it is a very distinctive seasoning that can easily overpower the flavor of the dish you are preparing so that culantro is the only thing you taste. For this reason it¹s wise to use the herb with some restraint.
Likewise with people; We should respectfully tolerate their words and deeds unless they threaten to overpower us. This is, of course, the basic tenet of a civil society.
Recently I spent a week in London, England attending some business meetings. I went out to a bar late one afternoon to watch the World Cup soccer game between England and Portugal with some of my colleagues. After the game I needed to go to the friend’s house where I had been lodging to collect my bags and move to a hotel.  My friend and I ventured out, but the streets were filled with Londoners ­ many of them rather inebriated ­ mourning the loss by their team to the Portuguese.
We searched in vain for a taxi, but they all went whizzing past apparently occupied by drunken soccer fans. Finally, however, we managed to flag down a gypsy cab, what we call in Spanish a pirata. The driver agreed to take us to my friend¹s house. When we got there we were fairly astounded when he charged us £20, about $40! Well, what could we do at that point but pay!?
In any case, I was very tired from a long day and asked the driver if he knew the location of my hotel. He replied enthusiastically in the affirmative and added that it wasn’t far. So I loaded my bags in the back seat of his car and off we went.
After the first 20 minutes I began to have my suspicions about this fellow’s knowledge of London geography. We seemed to be driving around in circles. Eventually my driver did stop to ask a couple of fellows standing on a street corner if they knew where to find my hotel. They said yes, but they then engaged the driver in a lengthy debate as to where to find the best prostitutes in London!
My tolerance began to wear thin, and if I’d known the city, and didn’t have two suitcases with me, I would have got out of the car right then and walked.

way we say it

By Daniel Soto

But ­sizing up the situation ­ it appeared to me that I had little choice but to stay put, though I did urge my pirata to suspend his discussion of the merits of various local brothels and drive on.

He stopped a couple more times to ask directions until finally our odyssey came to its eventual conclusion before the door of my hotel an hour and a half after leaving my friend’s home. It was a trip that I was to learn the following day should have taken no more than 10 to 15 minutes! But the real clincher was yet to come.
The fee he demanded for this little joy ride was another £20!
“Sure,” I said, opening the door and gingerly sliding my suitcases out of the backseat with me. “I’ll be right back. I just need to get change.”
After stashing luggage in the hotel lobby, I carefully folded a £5 note, strolled casually out to the curb, pressed the bill into the driver’s eager hand and walked briskly back to the safety of the hotel lobby.
“Hey! What’s this?” cried the cabbie. “I used a lot of gas driving you around!”
Bueno es el culantro, pero no tanto,” I answered from the door of the hotel.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” he inquired, rather testily.
“Save gas. Learn the city.” I replied, waving good-bye to him as I entered my hotel.

seen as eco-threat

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency map
Gatun Lake at the Caribbean side of the canal is a mass of fresh water that blocks the invasion of salt water species. Costa Rica off the map to the left.

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A proposed wider Panamá Canal does not have the fresh water traps that exist in the present system, and its construction might allow unhindered passage for exotic and harmful creatures from one ocean to the other.

This may result in an environmental disaster, according to a newspaper editor, Eric Jackson, who has raised the issue.

Jackson is somewhat of a voice in the wilderness because nearly every opinion molder in Panamá and major international organizations support the plan to widen the canal. Citizens of Panamá have to vote on the measure in October.

If Jackson is correct, the threat is a major one to both Costa Rican coasts. He said in an open letter to environmentalists worldwide:

"Thanks to an expensive government propaganda campaign, an increasingly ironclad domination of the news media, corny but effective information control games and flat-out scientific fraud, one thing that relatively few Panamanians know is that they’re offering us a set of environmental problems of unknowable but almost certainly immense proportions. . . ."

Jackson said that the artificial freshwater Gatun Lake is a barrier now to prevent most salt water creatures from traveling the length of the canal. But the new construction would allow salt water into the lake, "opening a gate whose width nobody has studied for Caribbean species to get into the Pacific or vice versa," he said.
Jackson said that relevant environmental studies have been suppressed and that the  $5.25 billion plan is being railroaded by the  Martín Torrijos administration. The project would built a second canal lane adjacent to the existing one.

Jackson said that newspapers are being bribed by huge pro-referendum ad contracts and that backers of the canal expansion have quietly taken over most of the communications media, including the recent purchase of a television news channel by a leading figure in the ruling Democratic Revolutionary Party.

"Yes," said Jackson, "there are a few ragtag little publications, mostly on the Internet, and
" . . . with the salinization of Gatun Lake there is a high chance of exotic species invasions," Jackson said.

"The effects may just not be on Panama. Might the larvae of some small and unstudied Caribbean organism get over to the Pacific side, make its way to the waters around Coiba Island, then ride the current out to the Galapagos, along the way disrupting food chains in ways nobody ever considered and devastating fisheries. . .?"

A few radio talk shows that give voice to the 'no' side, and especially because two former presidents — Guillermo Endara and Jorge Illueca  — and former top canal administrator Fernando Manfredo are among the skeptics, opposing voices sometimes make it into little news reports or op-ed columns in some of the mainstream newspapers."

But Jackson, editor of the English-language Panama News says that officials have even disregarded and misrepresented their own environmental studies.

Investigators locate body of missing judicial worker
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police located the body of a missing Zapote woman Sunday morning near Atenas.

The woman, Maureen Gabriela Hidalgo Mora, 28, vanished Tuesday. She had been married for a year to a well known public defender. She, herself, was an employee of the Poder Judicial.

By evening there was little doubt that the body was of the woman. Investigators had made the assumption when they viewed the body because it had the physical characteristics of the missing woman. Later at the Morgue Judicial workers said that a preliminary autopsy confirmed the fact to about 95 percent certainty. They said a full-scale autopsy would be conducted today in the presence of experts in bullet wounds.
The condition of the body suggests that the woman was murdered and dumped not long after she vanished. The woman took off Tuesday to attend to some personal errands, officials said.

Her husband is Luis Fernando Burgos Barboza, who remained in the couple's Yoses Sur apartment Sunday.

Even before the body had been discovered, officials were treating the case as a murder. With the permission of the husband, a search was made of the apartment. Officials said that a prosecutor in the judicial system had received a tip.

It may have been this tip that brought the police to the outskirts of Atenas Sunday. The body was about 12 feet off the road in a ditch and encased in a plastic bag.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, July 17, 2006, Vol. 6, No. 140

Holiday ends but there is another on horizon
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Public school youngsters will be back at class today after a two-week mid-term vacation.

That's why the highways were packed over the weekend as Central Valley families return from their holiday retreats.

The weekend took a typical toll. A mother and her 3-month-old baby died when their car overturned near Pérez Zeledón. On the Interamerican highway, two men died when their passenger car crashed headon into a trailer. A public bus was the third vehicle involved in the collision. It was on the San Isidro-San José route.

Tránsito officers were conducting vehicle checks on the main highways into the Central Valley Sunday. They were perhaps responding to an article Sunday in the Spanish-language La Nación that said few tickets for speeding and other moving violations are ever given out.
The Instituto Meteorológico Nacional says rain will be falling all over the country today with the possible exception of the north Pacific. The storms are supposed to be accompanied by lightning.

The next holiday is July 31 for school children. This is the Monday following July 25, the usual date for celebrating the Annexation of the Partido de Nicoya. A new law moves the holiday to the next Monday to provide a three-day weekend.

The holiday may be more than what officials anticipate. Aug. 2 is the feast day of La Virgen de los Angeles, and all roads lead to Cartago and the basilica there.

July 31 and Aug. 1 will be days of foot pilgrimages from all over Costa Rica. Perhaps a million Costa Ricans will be on the roads walking.

The holiday is likely to be a five-day one as entire school classes and social groups participate in the walk.

National Guard troops in the U.S. are taking their places at border
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The United States has dispatched more than 3,500 National Guardsmen to its southwestern border states of California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas where they will support the work of U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency, according to the chief of the National Guard Lt. Gen. Steven Blum.

Blum said Friday that the United States has 3,500 National Guardsmen dispatched to the southwest border, a number that will grow to 6,000 by Aug. 1.
As part of Operation Jump Start, these guardsmen will provide military capability in support of civilian law enforcement.  Blum said that the National Guard troops are not replacing the Border Patrol, but rather will enhance tactical infrastructure for the agency, including building and maintaining roads, fences, lighting, sensors, and towers with cameras.

In addition to tactical infrastructure support, the National Guard will also provide aviation support.  These efforts will include aerial reconnaissance as well as transportation.

News from the BBC up to the minute
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Jo Stuart
About us

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