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(506) 223-1327               Published Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2007, in Vol. 7, No. 150            E-mail us   
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kennedy plaque
  Plaque was erected Nov. 22, 1966

Where's Jack?
The bust of U.S. president John Fitzgerald Kennedy no long graces a column in San Pedro's central park. The municipality removed it to protect it from vandals. The column itself has been damaged. Officials think they know where the bust is. Kennedy, who originated the Alianza para Progreso, visited Costa Rica in March 1963, just months before his murder.
kennedy column
A.M. Costa Rica/Saray Ramírez Vindas
Damaged column is all that remains


Company formed to do what Registro will not do
By José Pablo Ramírez Vindas
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Property fraud has become so epidemic in Costa Rica that a private company has been set up to be a second check on the official Registro Nacional.

The company, Private Property Registry, seeks to keep daily contact with the Registro records and flag any transactions that involved titles registered with it by clients and pursue any fraudulent transactions.

The idea is to halt fake transactions early in the registration process. Most frauds or thefts of properties are done with paperwork. Expats who may be out of the country for long periods frequently are targets. So are dead owners.

The registro has denied responsibility in cases of fraud and directs complainants to the judicial offices. Prosecutors are flooded with such complaints.

Property thieves are assisted by court rulings that protect so-called innocent third parties. So if a thief forges a transfer and then sells the ill-gained property to a third party, courts frequently will protect the ownership interest of the third party at the expense of the original owner.

Sometimes the third party is not so innocent.

Company officials said at a press conference Tuesday that complaints of property frauds have increased 700 percent in the last decade. The frauds are driven in part by the rising value of real estate in Costa Rica. The company said that in addition to the 85 property fraud complaints filed in 2006 there were many more that were not reported officially.

A.M. Costa Rica has reported on such frauds involving expats. Just 16 months ago the newspaper reported that a judicial panel denied innocent third party status to the wife of San José Mayor Johnny Araya, the wife of 2002 Liberación presidential 
candidate Rolando Araya and the wife of Oliver Jiménez Rojas, who is a congressional deputy. The  case involved property stolen by means of forgery from a California expat by a man identified in court records as a snow cone salesman on the Quepos beaches.

Eric Scharf Taitelbaum, president of Private Property Registry, said that 10 gangs organized by notaries, real estate brokers and accountants are working in Costa Rica to investigate and then steal the ownership of properties. He said the principal method of operation is to transfer properties of foreigners who have purchased Costa Rican holdings. Lawyers and notaries take advantage of these situations.

In Costa Rica a property is transferred by a document signed by a notary stating that the  property has been sold. The signature of the previous owner is not required. A single notary with an addiction problem transferred dozens of properties this way.

The judicial agency that controls notaries seldom treats lawyers and notaries harshly. Neither do trial tribunals.

When a client contracts for the service of Private Property Registry the firm takes fingerprints and photos. Then it assigned a password so the client can access a Web page if he or she seeks to remove the protection over a piece of property, as in the case of a real sale, company officials said.

Otherwise, the company will keep checking to make sure that no change has taken place in the ownership. The firm has about 500 properties now registered for protection and charges $270 for 365 days of protection, officials said.

What the firm does is the same service individual lawyers and others provide to property owners. However, the new service is computerized and has struck a deal with the registro to survey the property data base daily.


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A.M.
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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 151

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Professional Directory
A.M. Costa Rica's professional directory is where business people who wish to reach the English-speaking community may invite responses. If you are interested in being represented here, please contact the editor.

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 3228-10/10/07
Abductors in Hinkle case
get conditional sentences


By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Two persons who abducted and held a U.S. businessman in an effort to settle a debt got a slap on the wrists Tuesday at a court in Heredia.

The Tribunal de Juicio de Heredia handed down three-year sentences against the pair but then gave them conditional liberty, said the press office of the Poder Judicial.

They are a man, Rafael Fallas Segura, and a woman, Yadira Arguedas Arias.  They were believed to be acting under the direction of an individual or individuals who were not on trial.

The charge was extortive kidnapping. The victim was Richard Hinkle, who also was operator of a clothing store. That happened Oct. 22, 2003, as Hinkle got out of his car to open the porton of his home garage in La Ribera de Belén. He had his wife and children with him. Hinkle was rescued by tactical officers three days after his abduction. Agents raided a dwelling in Los Anonos, Escazú, and freed him.

Hinkle defrauded a number of investors, some of them elderly, with Cornerstone International Savings and Investment Bank in Grenada. His targets were mostly individuals in northeastern Pennsylvania and in Illinois. He stopped making interest payments and fled from Grenada to Costa Rica in late 2001, investigators said. Losses were in the neighborhood of $3.5 million. Investigators said he operated a ponzi scheme.

Hinkle, who also was the lay preacher at a San Pedro church, later was taken to the United States where he accepted a plea agreement on the fraud charge.

Our readers' opinions
This reader appreciates
Garland Baker's viewpoint


Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

The suggestion by Mr. Holtz that A.M. Costa Rica news coverage has lost its “zip“ inspired me to think about what I consider newsworthy and of interest to expats, tourists and foreigners seeking to learn more about Costa Rica.

As an expat residing in Costa Rica, I read A.M. Costa Rica daily. I also recommend this site to anyone contemplating becoming an expat or anyone at all interested in learning about Costa Rica.

I disagree with Mr. Holtz’s opinion that articles like Garland Baker’s are not newsworthy or posessed of “zip.” In fact, Mr. Baker’s articles are not only full of the most vital and current information that any expat would be very wise to read, they are also an insight into the Costa Rican culture and the political and governmental mindset here.

I have learned more about what I need to know and what peaks my curiosity about the psyche of this country from his articles than I have ever learned from reading about zippy car crashs and gory murders.  If you read Mr. Baker’s material you may well learn that he does indeed write about the zippy news, but his is not the tabloid perspective. He examines the cultural, political and legal trends that relate to and often contribute to the making of tabloid news.

“Zip,” therefore, must be in the mind of the reader, as beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I get my dose of “ zip” everday on A.M. Costa Rica.
Pamela Ellsworth
Nosara

We have very little news
in the paper, he believes

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I agree with John Holtz.  I have also noticed A.M. Costa Rica dropping the ball on local news and filling its pages with copy paste international news.  Which John is right, we can find elsewhere, if we are interested.  A big part of Page 2 is filled with reminders of earlier stories.  And of course A.M. Costa Rica has been adding lots of display ads.

Very little local news left in the paper.

I think very few A.M. Costa Rica readers care very little about international news, we have CNN and other better sources for that.  Central American news, I find interesting. But most of all, news on Costa Rica.  Even if it is a human interest article or some special report on a special charity, or what the local English theater is doing, lots of news out there on Costa Rica.  Maybe a special interest series, like what is happening to the commercialization of prostitution with the Del Rey complex.

[Some material deleted here.]

What about criminals caught here for stuff, like Jamie Litagor.  I know him, but there was just one little brief story on his situation.  I like to know what is happening to local personalities here, when they get in trouble or do something good for the community.

How about some biographies and local business success stories on Americans who immigrated here and are doing well.  Shelby McAdams, the owner of the Colonial, has a fascinating history of how he was instrumental in the development of the casino business here.

Go out and interview some local celebrities, we have lots and lots of them here who would love to tell their story.  Everyone likes to tell you how they succeeded in Costa Rica, and it is a very positive thing for newcomers to read.

The Tico Times gives us enough crime reporting and all of the negative things about Costa Rica and why no one would want to visit or live here.  A.M Costa Rica could take the positive approach and get into positive stories about Costa Rica.

Look at Pat Dunn who lamented how Costa Rica has changed for the worse and ended up murdered in his new paradise.
Lots of people are talking about Panamá and Nicaragua as alternatives to living in Costa Rica.  Those countries don’t even report the crimes, the crime is so high.  People need to know the benefits of Costa Rica.  Yes crime has been on the increase, but compared to our neighbors, Costa Rica is still safer.

Maybe a section on business.  They have Costa Rican business consultants here to give you tips on taxes, how to start a business, licenses.  It is really not that hard, a very positive feature about Costa Rica.  Taxes here are pretty low.  Stuff on employees, most people don’t know about, like how the accident insurance for employees here works, the social security, taxes, etc. Business stuff.

What about the development of call centers in Costa Rica.  I just talked to a retired American who really doesn’t need the money, but enjoys working at a call center here and working with the younger Costa Rican kids in this new and growing industry.
Edward Bridges
Desamparados
 
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We had another great month for readership in June.
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A.M.
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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 151

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Tamarindo association raises economic concern over dengue
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Asociación Pro Mejoras de Tamarindo is trying to generate more citizen interest in fighting dengue. This time the emphasis is economic.

Tuesday the group released a letter from a person who identified himself as a Tamarindo property owner. The writer said that he contracted dengue in Tamarindo and spent three days in the hospital when he returned to California.

He said that as long as dengue fever continues to be a risk in Tamarindo he will not visit because he fears a second and more serious attack of dengue.
All over the country there are more than 8,000 cases of dengue reported, about double a normal caseload for the same period. There have been a handful of deaths from the deadly hemorrhagic form. The Provincia de Limón and Guanacaste are the areas where the disease is epidemic. Tamarindo is on the northern Pacific coast of Guanacaste.

"We all know that it is possible for an area to entirely rid itself of dengue," said the writer. "Maui has done this after a brief episode.  Any area that depends upon tourism and/or investment must make this a priority — if not for humanitarian reasons, then at least for economic reasons."

The Tamarindo association seeks to rid the area of pools of water where the dengue-carrying mosquito breeds.


Casa Presidencial seems pleased by World Bank corruption report on Costa Rica
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Casa Presidencial is taking pride in a World Bank report that shows the country as one of the nations of the world most advanced in the fight against corruption.

The report awards Costa Rica 67 of 100 points in this category, which compares favorably with much of Latin America. Among the low scores are Venezuela in second to last place in the region with 12.6 points just above Haiti.

The survey is based on interviews with individuals inside and outside of the countries involved. In all, 212 nations were evaluated.

The United States scored 89.3 points and Canada 93.7.

Ironically the top rated country was Finland with 100
 points. A big scandal now in Costa Rica involves medical equipment purchased from a Finnish company with Finnish loans.

Prosecutors say that a substantial amount of the money was diverted into bribes for top officials and that much of the equipment was not needed.

Casa Presidencial issued a press release about the study Tuesday and said that more than $1 billion is wasted in the world on bribes and corruption and that the burden of these payments falls disproportionately on the poor.

The Finnish scandal and another involving the former Alcatel company and former President Miguel Ángel Rodríguez may have cost Costa Rica some points. The country's evaluations on the corruption scale in 2002 and in the 1998 were about 10 points higher.


Box that held murdered businessman's body implicates one of the suspects
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Note to perspective killers: When you dump the body, make sure you don't put it in one of the boxes you have laying around the house.

Investigators said that is what someone did with Escazú businessman Armando Jiménez Quirós. His body was found stuffed in a cardboard box in the bed of a pickup last March 26 in Hatillo 7.

So the Judicial Investigating Organization went looking for what came in the box. Agents from the Sección de Homicidios said they found the 29-inch Panasonic television over the weekend in a local store. From there they were able to determine the name of the owner.
The owner was one of three persons detained in the crime, agents said Tuesday.

Investigators said at the time that Jiménez was lured to an apartment in Hatillo 5 for the purpose of robbery. He then was murdered by suffocation, they said.

Subsquently agents detained two men and a woman. They were identified by last names and ages as  Navarro, 21; Wrigth, 26, and Barrantes, 23. The last individiual named is the woman.

Still missing is a 40-caliber pistol, a crucifix and chain of gold and a gold ring with the inscription of Firston Military School, as well as a wallet, electronic agenda and credit cards, said agents.


It's no surprise, but gasoline and diesel prices will be going up again
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Super gasoline is going to 620 colons a liter, under a price adjustment announced Friday by the Autoridad Reguladora de los Servicios Públicos. That is an increase of 5.44 percent. A U.S. gallon of gasoline will cost $4.51 at the service station when the decree is published.
Regular gasoline goes to 584 colons per liter or $4.25 a U.S. gallon. That is a 5.8 percent increase.

Diesel goes to 424 per liter or $3.09 a U.S. gallon, an 8.16 increase, said the agency. There also were increases announced for aviation gasoline and liguid petroleum gas that many Costa Ricans use to cook food.


You need to see Costa Rican tourism information HERE!


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San José, Costa Rica, Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2007, Vol. 7, No. 151


ICE told to get on the ball and offer pre-paid cell service
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The regulator general is telling the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad to get on the ball and install pre-paid cell telephone service.

The Autoridad Reguladora de los Servicios Públicos came out with cheaper rates for pre-paid cell phones Tuesday even though the institute, known as ICE, never requested them.

Fernando Herrero, the head of the price-setting agency, said the whole world except Costa Rica has prepaid services and the service would help tourists, students and small business operators.

He said he envisioned the sale of a chip that could be inserted into any cell telephone to provide a specific period of service, perhaps as much as 60 days.

ICE has had trouble even keeping up with the demand for traditional cell telephone service. However, Herrero said that the acquisition of 300,000 more cell phone lines by the end of the year would let the company offer the service.
The agency set the prepaid price of 2,500 colons (4.81) for 30 days and 10,000 colons ($19.23) for 45 days. The owner of the telephone would be charged by the call so that the value of the phone might be exhausted sooner.  A regular cell phone carries a charge of 8,150 colons a month ($15.67).

ICE now has various types of phone cards for public telephones.

Herrero cited a news story in The Economist which said that such telephones contribute to the economic development of a country.

Costa Rica has a telephone for 58 out of 100 persons, about average for the world but well below the more than 100 percent coverage of the most developed nations, said Herrero.

The tariffs established by the regulating agency also would apply to any other telephone company that wished to set up business here. Right now ICE has a monopoly, but the free trade treaty would allow competition for wireless services.


Municipal policeman fatally shoots fleeing theft suspect in the back in Hatillo 6
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A San José municipal policeman shot a fleeing suspect in the back and killed him Tuesday afternoon in Hatillo 6.

The man was running from the break in of a vehicle, a persistent type of crime in the area.

Police said that the man, identified by the last name of
Vargas, scaled a wall in an effort to get away from the officer identified by the last name of Barrantes. The man fell from the wall when shot.

Two others persons were fleeing with the man who was killed.

Officials said that an investigation would be launched. Hatillo is in the southern part of the city.


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