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(506) 2223-1327       Published Friday, July 18, 2008, in Vol. 8, No. 142       E-mail us
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Pedestrians have to be careful where workmen have torn up even more of Avenida Central to extend the downtown mall three more blocks, west from the orange Mercado Central building to the approaches to Hospital San Juan de Dios.
mall progress
A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas



Trio held in computer fraud case involving banks
By Jeremy Arias
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Agents of the Judicial Investigating Organization arrested three men suspected of Internet thefts from bank accounts during two raids Thursday, one  in Curridabat and one in Santa Ana.

The suspects, Harold Alvarez Salazar, 35, Miguel Angel Llanes Fernández, 45, both Costa Ricans, and Julio Alvarez Tejera, 50, a Cuban, were arrested on suspicion of using keylogger programs embedded in deceptive e-mails to obtain bank account numbers and passwords. Officials said they were part of a ring that defrauded victims of close to 115 million colons (about $213,000), according to an organization release.

The operation, which began in February, was carried out by the agency's computer fraud section. The effort culminated in the raids of residences in Lomas de Ayarco Sur, Curridabat and Santa Ana and the seizure of several computers and programs used for transactions and electronic transfers, the release said.

According to the judicial organization release, the keylogger program cannot be detected by the operator of an infected computer. The program records computer keyboard commands and automatically sent the account numbers and other sensitive information back to scammers, who then make withdrawals from automatic teller machines and through third-party bank accounts.

A Hummer was also seized at the location in Curridabat. A gray Mitsubishi Eclipse and a black
BMW were seized in Santa Ana, as well, said the agency.

The raid in Lomas de Ayarco Sur also turned up what investigators said was important documentation indicating another house in Residencial Hacienda Vieja, Curridabat, where advanced computer equipment was obtained, according to the release.

So far, 19 complaints have been identified in the case against the fraud scheme. The three arrests are believed related to the arrest of several dozen other persons during the last year.

The three suspects were remanded to the Fiscalía de Fraudes, according to the release. The investigative operation was called Miel de Abeja, the agency said. That means honey in English.

The arrests are a continuation of investigations involving thefts mostly from accounts at public banks. The illegal access to accounts has caused banks here to increase security for Internet transfers. Banco de Costa Rica is using a revolving code that customers determine from a paper grid. Banco Nacional still forbids online transfers unless users can also provide credit card and security numbers.

One expat lost more than $200,000 to such thieves, but she doubts that a keylogger program was used. In addition to e-mail spam messages crooks create Web pages that mimic those of banks to capture access data. And in some cases computer repairmen are suspected of inserting trojan programs into the hard drives of machines.


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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, July 18, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 142

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4257-11/21/08
Trial of young murder suspect
opens today in San José


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Today is the beginning of the closed trial of a juvenile who is accused of killing a 17-year-old during a robbery April 8.

The Poder Judicial said that the trial would be in the  Juzgado Penal Juvenil de San José and did not name the suspect.

The dead victim is  José Andrés Rojas Morales, who was confronted by two masked individuals at the door to his home in Llorente de Tibás. The robbers took the backpack and cellphone of the high schooler and then shot him in the stomach with a BB gun.

The victim could not withstand surgery and died at  Hospital Calderón Guardia, said the P{oder Judicial.

The suspect was detained at an aunt's home in San Sebastian by murder investigators three days later.

Caja certifications going online

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

When a company seeks to  do business with the government or other private firms, the law requires that the firm prove that it is up to date with its social security payments to the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social. The Caja produces about 35,000 such certifications on paper each month.

Thursday the government announced a pilot project whereby the information would be available online for the Registro Nacional and by Aug. 1 for the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad. This is part of the gobierno digital initiative.


Our reader's opinion
Arias appointee shows lack
of respect for U.S. law


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I have been following these past few months the story of Ms. Tomayko's pending extradition to the United States.  While I may have sympathy for her situation, there is not one bit of evidence that has been presented that the laws of the U.S. in this case should not be respected.
 
I find it appalling that Ms. Carrillo, an appointee of President Arias, feels that she has the right to publicly call someone a liar without even having heard even one word of Roger Cyprian's side of the story.  For Ms. Carrillo to say "I know the case plainly. I've spoken with the family and Ms. Tomayko" is ridiculous coming from someone who is supposed to be a representative of the president of Costa Rica.

Today's story is HERE!

Where is the respect of the law, Ms. Carillo?  Who are you to call someone a liar without even knowing all of the facts in the case?  I would also ask Ms. Carrillo, how do you know the case plainly when you haven't even made the effort to speak with the other party in this dispute?   No evidence of abuse was ever presented by Ms. Tomayko.  In simple terms, it was her word against his.
 
When asked why Ms. Tomayko's didn't seek police protection Ms. Carrillo shows her ignorance of anywhere outside Costa Rica when she says that "we have to remember this was 10 years ago and women didn't have the same resources as we have today."  Perhaps women didn't have the same resources here in Costa Rica 10 years ago, but apparently Ms. Carrillo does not realize that women in other countries have made significant advances in rights, awareness of important issues, and protections under the law.
 
Domestic violence does happen, and every case is tragic no matter what the extent of the violence.  Fortunately though in some countries you are still innocent until proven guilty instead of in Ms. Carrillo's world where you are guilty until proven innocent. Of course, though, in Ms. Carrillo's world apparently you don't even have the right to defend yourself against an accusation.
 
I applaud A.M. Costa Rica for taking the stand that the proper place for the case to be heard is in a Texas courtroom.  I agree also that the U.S. government should aggressively investigate the embassy employees and others that apparently have been helping Ms. Tomayko during her time as a fugitive from the law.
 
It is fine for everyone to comment at times that those who are living here in Costa Rica from a foreign country need to respect Costa Rica's laws, but the same applies to Ms. Carrillo.  Ms. Carrillo, I would ask that you have respect for the laws of another country as well.
David K. Treadway
Esterillos Oeste

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, July 18, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 142


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Security officials are at war with drug that provokes crime
By Jeremy Arias
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Since 1991 public security ministry statistics have shown a steady increase in crack cocaine in Costa Rica, and the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública has had enough.

Ministry anti-drug police arrested a 62 year-old shoe store worker in Ciudad Neily Wednesday. He is the latest of a long string of crack-related arrests. The man, identified by the last names González Mairena, had 43 doses of crack at the time of his arrest, according to the ministry release.

Last week the security ministry launched Operation Crack against the highly potent and addictive drug. Since last Friday, more than 465 doses of crack rocks were seized during three operations throughout the country, not including the latest in Ciudad Neily, according to ministry releases and representatives.

“Crack has become the country's biggest problem,” security minister Janina Del Vecchio said in a speech about recent anti-crime initiatives in Limón. Increases in crack use often correlate with an increase in crime, according to ministry spokesman Jesús Ureña.

“Addicts will commit robberies and thefts because they need money to buy more.” Ureña said. From 1980 to 1992, considered the peak of the U.S. crack epidemic, violent crime in the states rose by 50 percent, according to U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration statistics.

Allan Solano Aguilar, director of the Policía de Control de Drogas, offered further insight into the new operation.

“Addicts and dealers meet in public places, in the city, at the beaches, in parks, open lots,” Aguilar said, “Even dance halls and skating rinks. The primary idea is to return these public spaces to the public use.”

“The main function of the security ministry is to ensure the safety of the people,” He added, “Drugs are robbing them of this security.”

Aguilar stressed that, while the effects of drug sale and addiction are easy to see, the actual number of hardcore addicts and dealers constitutes a small minority of the population.

The prevalence of crack use also varies from place to place. According to Ronny Sanchez, the chief of the Fuerza Pública in Escazú, crack is a relatively small problem.

“We have some suspects, and we are attacking them every day,” Sanchez said, “In the markets there is very little sale of drugs. Why? Because we have continued patrols there.” Sanchez listed crimes against property and theft from construction sites as more of a problem in Escazú.

Capt. Norberto Matarrita Rodríguez of the Fuerza Pública
crack rocks
Judicial Investigating Organization photo
Judicial police siezed this load of crack

in Jacó  painted a different picture of the crack problem in the popular Pacific tourist destination, which he acknowledged is also a popular city for  prostitution.

“We also have a lot of problems with drugs like crack, cocaine, marijuana and psychotropic drugs,” he conceded, but quickly asserted the early success of the new anti-crack and drug operation.

“The Fuerza Pública and municipal police have made an alliance,” Rodríguez said, “We are combating the sale and use of drugs here. It is a success every day, every detention is a success.”

So far, the operation is being run exclusively by the departments of the ministry of security, but the Judicial Investigating Organization has made independent drug busts as well, including the arrest Wednesday of a major narcotics distributor in Turrialba, along with more than a half kilo of crack according to an organization release.

Anti-drug Police Director Aguilar clarified that, while the judicial organization may not be directly involved in “Operation Crack,” it is only because the ministry and the judicial organization each cover different aspects of crime.

“The Policía de Control de Drogas is a department that has two functions,” He said, “The detention and investigation of drug delinquents for the ministry.”

“In this case, it is an initiative of the minister of security, Janina Del Vecchio, to investigate the possibility of minimizing the sale of crack in order to minimize other crimes,” he said.

While it may be too soon to comment in detail regarding the success of “Operation Crack,” the fact that the security ministry has taken notice is clear, and Aguilar appeared resolute in his agency's mission to restore security to the people.


Crack rocks offer a short but intense high to smokers
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Crack is cocaine that has not been mixed and neutralized by an acid, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency Web site. Powdered cocaine is mixed with a base substance, typically baking soda, and water and then boiled.

The heat breaks the original chemical bonds and creates cocaine in its most potent free-base form, separate from the original hydrochloride of the powder form.

The resulting hard, crystalline nuggets, referred to as rocks, offer users up to 90 percent purity of the original cocaine. When the rocks are lit, usually in a short pipe, the vapors inhaled give users an experience much stronger and more immediate than by snorting powdered cocaine according to "El Crimen de la Droga," a book by Raúl T. Escobar.

“The effects of this drug lasts for 10 minutes,” said Allan Solano Aguilar, director of Costa Rica's Policía de Control de Drogas. “For this reason, the addicts are always returning for more.”

Crack, like its original form, cocaine, is a stimulant that
triggers the brain's pleasure-inducing chemical messenger, dopamine. Once the first surge of euphoria has ended, the resulting lack of dopamine sends the user into a depression, according to the DEA.

Users often find themselves chasing the intensity of their original high. Due to crack's manipulation of dopamine, the second and third sensations are typically not as intense, easily leading into addiction.

“The dealers have trapped a market here,” Aguilar said, “Due to the high level of dependence it creates, the users need it every day.”

To anyone who has seen the ambling gait, often bloodshot and unfocused eyes of an addict, the long term effects of crack consumption are clear. As evidenced by the constant stream of cocaine and crack-related arrests and seizures, the problem is just as serious here now as it was during the crack epidemic in 1980s United States.

According to Costa Rican general law Nº 8204, those found in possession of, selling, refining or transporting illegal narcotics can get a prison sentence of eight to 15 years.


The encounters at a reunion are full of multiple emotions
Family reunions are late nights, saying yes to more food when you have eaten enough, trying to remember names. Confusing cousins you haven’t seen in 40 years, discovering nieces and nephews have grown into lovely (or handsome) adults and being proud of your own children.

Family reunions include meeting boyfriends and in-laws for the first time.  And finally, for me, the chance to spend some precious days with my sister and my children — it has been a long time. Some of us also visited my (our) 95 year-old Aunt Grace.  We arrived just as she had finished washing her living room windows, having carried a small step ladder down the stairs from her bedroom — stairs I found scarily steep, as a child. 

Reunions are also sharing words of congratulation and joy or condolences and sorrow, depending upon the reason for the gathering.  In our case, although it was sad, there were happy surprises at how many friends my mother had made.  Among her possessions was a card from a friend in Uzbekistan. 

One of the highlights of the reunion was the magic show performed by my nephew, Rusty, a/k/a Russ Alan, magician.

Twelve of us were sitting around the long table in the cottage on the lake that nieces Cathy and Tiffany had rented for the week. 

Rusty was at the head of the table and masterfully adjusted his tricks to the situation.  He had us oohing and laughing and clapping for an hour, and, of course, asking, “How did you do that?”  After the magic show, we all adjourned to a bonfire on the beach and ate smores (my first so I don’t even know how they are spelled).  Both smores and fire were furnished by Stacy, a new addition to our family gatherings.   

For me it was also seeing my two hometowns for the first time in many years.  The populations of both Mayville and Jamestown are smaller than they were when I lived there.  But what is surprising is the appearance of the two towns.  They are neat and clean with freshly painted and maintained homes, golf course lawns, and lots of what seem to be unnecessary traffic lights.  I didn’t see a single policeman on foot nor anyone in the process of sprucing up the town, except two painters with a brush and a small
Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart
jostuart@amcostarica.com

 roller working on the side of a four-story building.  Smaller populations mean fewer workers.

But people (or is it companies?) obviously rise to the occasion when faced with fewer workers.  My niece Cathy told me the story of nine years before when she took her then teenaged daughter Tiffany to the small Jamestown airport where Tiffany was to leave for Florida. They arrived an hour early to an empty airport.

As departure time approached, a young woman hurried in, went behind the ticket counter, put on an airline hat and said, “Tickets, please.” Tiffany handed over her ticket and was told to take her bag to Security.  Nearby was the rolling conveyor belt, but there was no security guard.  They went over anyway.  The ticket lady now ducked under the counter again and came over to Security, donning a security insignia as she did.  She sent Tiffany’s bag through, checking the x-ray of it as it went. Then she said, “You may start boarding now.”

Boarding involved exiting the building onto the tarmac and climbing the stairs to the small plane.  Tiffany was the only passenger boarding the plane.  Her mother went to the window hoping to get a last wave.  Outside she saw the ticket agent, cum security guard.  Now she was wearing earphones and waving white batons, directing the plane as it moved.  Cathy said that she checked to see if the stairs had been removed or were waiting for the woman to go aboard as co-pilot.  Cathy swears this really happened.. 

This obviously demonstrates that the people of Western New York are both resourceful and multi-talented.  That is where I come from.

Sitting in the airport, waiting for my plane back home, I got into a conversation with a man who was coming to Costa Rica for a wedding of a family member, which was also going to be a family and friends reunion.  I hope they enjoy themselves as much as we did.



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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, July 18, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 142


Father of abducted girl says he just wants to hear her again
By Elise Sonray
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A father who remembers a daughter who loved riding roller coasters and sharing school lunches with her dad just wants to hear his child's voice again, he said Thursday.

When his baby was born, she was premature and only about four pounds, said Roger Cyprian. “I went out and bought a Cabbage Patch Doll. We dressed her in doll clothes because regular newborn clothes didn't fit her,” said Cyprian.

After 11 years Roger Cyprian said he has no idea what his daughter's voice sounds like. And after the Sala IV constitutional court suspended the extradition of  Chere Lyn Tomayko, his daughter's mother, Thursday, he worries his daughter Alexandria Camille Cyprian may never hear his side of the story.

“Money, revenge is not my goal,” said Cyprian. The father, a nurse in Texas said he would be happy just to talk to Alexandria even if he never sees her again.“My main goal is to at least get my daughter to know that her father loves her.”

Cyprian recently contacted a lawyer in Costa Rica after television stations and newspapers reported statements that he had abused Ms. Tomayko. “She's been manipulating the media,” said the lawyer, Juan Carlos Esquivel Favareto. After things are settled with the extradition, the lawyer and Cyprian will analyze the case to see whether legal actions are in order, said Esquivel.

Cyprian, who does not speak Spanish, has written La Nación and Jeannette Carrillo Madrigal, executive president of the women's institute.  Ms. Carrillo  said publicly that believes the abuse charges. No one has contacted Cyprian to hear his side of the story, he said.  

At a impromptu press event Wednesday night, Alexandria, her older half-sister Chandler  and their mother's husband, Javier Francisco Montero Umaña, refused to talk to A.M. Costa Rica.

Ms. Tomayko was never able to prove the allegations of abuse in the Texas court. Ms. Tomayko also alleged that Cyprian had sexually abused the girls, he said. After medical tests on both girls, the court found these allegations were false, according to Cyprian, who added that Ms. Tomayko was not able to produce a single friend or witness who confirmed the abuse charges. Cyprian said he produced about 15 witnesses to support his defense.

During their relationship, the two parents only lived in the same home for one month, said Cyprian. That was when Cyprian's mother came up from New Orleans to help care for Ms. Tomayko and baby Alexandria, he said.

The Tarrant County District Court court gave the parents joint custody in December of 1996. Four months later Ms. Tomayko fled the country, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

When asked if they had contacted the Texas courts, Maritza Aguilar, a lawyer on the defense team for Ms. Tomayko, said they had not.

Esquivel said the case must be settled in a Texas court not in a Costa Rican court. “They can't prove here if her story is true or isn't true. It has to be decided in the United
Cyprian and girls
A.M. Costa Rica file photo
Roger Cyprian in happier times, with his ex- girlfriend's daughter Chandler and his daughter, Alexandria, who now is 19.

States.” A judge in Texas already ruled against Ms. Tomayko, said Esquivel, and the Costa Rican court can not overturn that ruling. “The family is doing everything they can to hold off the extradition,” said  Esquivel.

A habeas corpus filing this week by the Defensa Pública claims that Ms. Tomayko is a Costa Rican citizen. Esquivel said that is not possible. First someone who is wanted by authorities including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, cannot obtain Costa Rican citizenship, he said. Second, Ms. Tomayko was married in April. The Constitution says a foreign woman must be married to a Tico for at least two years before expressing her desire to become a citizen.

Ms. Tomayko's lead public defender never returned a reporter's call, although Ms. Aguilar, who said she was on the legal team, answered a few questions. As to why Ms. Tomayko is claiming citizenship with only two three months of marriage when the Constitution clearly states two years, Ms. Aguilar said that lawyers would defend the possibility of citizenship later.

“Whose right were damaged here? the kids,” said Esquivel, “They never had the right to see their father.” Although Chandler is not his child, Cyprian said for many years he acted as the father in her life.

“I just want a relationship with my oldest daughter,” said Cyprian who has since married and has three younger children. “I want her to hear my side of the story, but at this point I'm not sure she ever will.”

A spokeswoman for the courts said that the Sala IV would consider the various last-minute appeals over five days. In addition to an appeal from the Defensa Pública, Ms. Carrillo of the Instituto Nacional de Mujeres and the Defensoría de los Habitantes also filed appeals Wednesday. The family of Ms. Tomayko embarked on a public relations campaign to prevent her extradition.

Another element that the court will consider is that she had two children by Montero during her time as a fugitive here.


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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, July 18, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 142


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A.M. Costa Rica
users guide

This is a brief users guide to A.M. Costa Rica.

Old pages

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.


Searching

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.


Newspages

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.


Classifieds

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.


Advertising information

A summary of advertising rates and sizes are available for display and classifieds.


Statistics

A.M. Costa Rica makes its monthly statistics available to advertisers and readers. It is HERE! 


Contacting us

Both the main telephone number and the editor's e-mail address are listed on the front page near the date.


Visiting us

Directions to our office and other data, like bank account numbers are on the about us page.


High energy prices spawn
a green gold rush of sorts


By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Some economists and venture capitalists say the long term rise in gas and oil prices is driving something of a technology boom. In 2007, $148 billion went towards alternative energy development. One report says such investment is expected to triple in the next few years, creating more energy efficient products for use on the road, and in homes and businesses.

Billions of dollars were spent on new wind, solar and biofuel projects last year.  According to the United Nations Environmental Program, 60 percent more money was in invested in 2007 than in the 2006.

"There is certainly a gold rush of speculation. Kind of like 1849, when everyone was rushing with their picks and shovels and finding opportunities," venture capitalist Steve Jurvetson said.

Some call it a green gold rush. Efforts are under way to turn everything from cow manure, algae, cooking oil, corn, even tiny microbes into new sources of fuel.

At the laboratories of a Maryland company called Zymetis Steven Hutcheson is developing a process to turn waste paper products into biofuels, using bacteria.

"We can work with materials that are not currently being recycled,” Hutcheson said. “We can get reasonable yields of ethanol from that material and use that for production. It is not going to solve the countries total energy needs but it's a place to start."

Technology forecaster Paul Saffo says energy investments are accelerated by soaring gas prices.

"There is a lot of money coming in,” Saffo said. “It is going to make a difference but all of these technologies take time to deploy."

Jurvetson says higher gas prices can be seen as a good thing. "If gas prices stayed artificially low for the next 10 to 20 years we probably wouldn't see as much innovation that we desperately need as a planet to stave off future global warming," Jurvetson said.

The U.N. says such yearly investment will triple in the next few years and continue rising through the next decade.
 
U.S. citizen deported to Florida

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Immigration police Thursday deported  Roney Leo Rodríguez, a U.S. citizen wanted to face a charge of robbery in  Broward County, Florida. He was detained here for illegal possession of a firearm, officials said.

The Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería said he last entered the country legally in May 2007.

His deportation was ordered by the Juzgado Penal del Circuito Judicial de Alajuela and there was no extradition process.


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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, July 18, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 142



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