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(506) 2223-1327        Published Thursday, Dec. 11, 2008,  in Vol. 8, No. 246       E-mail us
Jo Stuart
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One suspect still sought in telephone sales scam case
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The U.S. Department of Justice still is looking for a second suspect in the long-running business opportunity sales scam operated out of Sabana, Escazú and Santa Ana.

They identified the man as Stephen Schultz, a former employee of companies that bilked U.S. citizens via an elaborate telephone sales operation.

He is an associate of Jeffrey Pearson, who was detained Tuesday to face possible extradition to the United States.  Both Pearson and Schultz were charged with conspiracy and with committing their offenses via telemarketing, according to the Justice Department. Pearson also was charged with 12 counts of mail fraud and seven counts of wire fraud, and Schultz also was charged with eight counts of mail fraud and three counts of wire fraud, the department said.

At the time agents for the International Police Agency and other officers arrested Pearson in Santa Ana, they said information from the United states said the various companies grossed $13 million and there were 450 individual complaints against the companies.

The Poder Judicial said Wednesday that a judge in the Tribunal Penal de San José had ordered Pearson confined for two months while an extradition process advances. The case is in U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Florida where indictments against both men were returned Nov. 20.

The U.S. consumer police, the Federal Trade Commission, got the first civil restraining order against the Escazú telephone pitchmen in November 2005.  However, the operation kept going with name changes and changes in the types of products offered for sale over the telephone.

In most cases, the companies offered U.S. residents racks and products to be placed around the customer's locale with the promise of high earnings. The Federal Trade Commission and later the Justice Department said that the callers grossly misrepresented the potential earnings and sometimes did not deliver the promised racks.  Individual sales could range from $10,000 to $100,000.

A.M. Costa Rica first wrote about USA Beverage in January 2006 after the Federal Trade Commission got a judicial order halting the sales in the United States. At the time the company was selling display racks and packages of coffee.

A.M. Costa Rica again wrote about the business in April 2006 when the company reemerged as Twin Peaks, also selling display racks and coffee.

According to the Justice Department, the company incorporated in various U.S. states with new names as regulators got wind of operations. The voice-over-Internet protocol and cell phones were used to give potential customers the impression the business was operating in the United States even though the operators all were in Costa Rica.

The indictments also stem from an investigation by the U.S. Postal Service inspectors because the company sent brochures and other sales literature and contracts through the U.S. mails.

The Postal Service is the lead agency in the search for Schultz. The Miami office can be reached at (954) 436-7200.

According to the Justice Department, the sales call firm operated under the names of USA Beverages 
Inc., Twin Peaks Gourmet Coffee Inc., Cards-R-Us Inc., Premier Cards Inc., The Coffee Man Inc., and Powerbrands Distributing Co. Said the department:

"According to the indictment, the companies made numerous false statements to potential purchasers of the business opportunities. Among the misrepresentations alleged in the indictment are that the companies were based in and operated out of the United States; that purchasers would likely earn substantial profits; that prior purchasers of the business opportunities were earning substantial profits; that purchasers would sell a guaranteed minimum amount of merchandise, such as greeting cards and beverages; and that the business opportunity worked with locators familiar with the potential purchaser’s area who would secure or had already secured high-traffic locations for the potential purchaser’s merchandise stands.

"Potential purchasers also were falsely told that the profits of the companies were based in part on the profits of the business opportunity purchasers, thus creating the false impression that the companies had a stake in the purchasers’ success and in finding good locations.

"In addition, potential purchasers were falsely told that the companies were established years earlier, had a significant number of distributors across the country, and had a track record of success. Potential purchasers also were told that they would receive their merchandise racks, merchandise and locations promptly, even though many purchasers received nothing at all. Potential purchasers were referred to references who, according to the indictment, told false tales of their success as business opportunity owners."

The indictment alleges that Pearson, also known as Paul Clayton, Tim Harris or Ray Garrett, was a salesman for and manager of USA Beverages. Pearson, using various assumed names, operated, managed and worked as a salesman for Twin Peaks, Cards-R-Us, Premier Cards, Coffee Man and Powerbrands, the indictment said. He was also listed on Costa Rican corporate documents as the president of Twin Peaks.

The indictment alleges that Schultz, also known as Allen Pheifer, was an employee of USA Beverages who typically discussed with potential customers the locations available for placement of the merchandise stands in their area. Schultz also worked with Twin Peaks and Cards-R-Us, according to the indictment.

If convicted, Pearson and Schultz face a maximum statutory term of 10 years in prison, a possible fine and mandatory restitution on the conspiracy count. They also face a maximum statutory term of imprisonment of 25 years on each of the mail and wire fraud counts, a possible fine and mandatory restitution, said the Justice Department.

The company obtained its sales call leads by placing classified ads in U.S. newspapers. Typically the victims of the scam were older individuals with little business knowledge who sought additional income.

The company shills would give fictional accounts of their own successes in marketing the various products. In Costa Rica the company employed a number of expats and English-speaking Costa Ricans to make the sales in the United States.

At the time of the original injunction in 2005 the Sección de Fraudes of the Judicial Investigating Organization said it had no reason to look into the company because no one had filed a complaint.

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Jet Blue announces plan
for daily flight in March

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Jet Blue Airways, which opened a hub for Latin America in March at Orlando, Florida, said Wednesday it would begin flights to San José March 26.

The airline is known as a customer-oriented one that makes money. The Orlando route will give Costa Rican residents options to fly to New York, Boston and 11 other U.S. destinations, the airline said.

The proposal is subject to regulatory approval. Jet Blue already flies to Bogotá, Colombia, and the Dominican Republic. Costa Rica will be the first Central American destination, the firm said. The company has its main hub at New York's JFK International Airport.

The company plans a flight a day leaving Orlando at 10:40 a.m. with arrival in San Jose's Juan Santamaría airport at 11:53 a.m. local time. The return flight will leave San José at 12:48 p.m. and arrive in Orlando at 5:55 p.m., said the company.

Fares will run from $99 each way, the company said.

Jet Blue is known for having a television set for each passenger seat.

Refugee petition rejected
for U.S. woman held here

By Elyssa Pachico
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Immigration and security officials would not admit a petition for refugee status submitted by a U.S. woman wanted on an international kidnapping charge.

The woman's lawyer, Jorge Rojas Torres, said Wednesday that the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policia y Seguridad Pública was unclear as to why officials would not admit the petition for refugee status, which was presented during the last week of November. The lawyer and his client have appealed the denial, he said, and expect an answer from the ministry Friday.

The woman, Mary Anginette McBeth, 37, was detained by immigration police Nov. 21, in Montezuma, Nicoya. She and her son, Amedeo, 2, had been living in Costa Rica using a different name and false passport since September 2007. The Federal Bureau of Investigation issued a kidnapping warrant against her April 14, 2007, for allegedly abducting her son from his father, Luigi Cuomo, 50.

Fanny Cordero, a spokeswoman for the child welfare office, the Patronato Nacional de la Infancia, confirmed that Ms. McBeth's son is in the custody of his father. However, she could not confirm that the two remain in Costa Rica.

Ms. McBeth, a former resident of Surfside, Florida, first filed for divorce from Cuomo in Nov. 26, 2006, according to the Miami-Dade county courthouse records. According to Ms. McBeth, in March, she booked a round-trip ticket to visit her son from another marriage, Noah, 17, in Germany. Her husband, who knew she was going to Germany, filed kidnapping charges in her absence, she said.

At the time she left for Germany in March, she and Cuomo shared joint custody of the child.

Cuomo's lawyer, Lawrence S. Katz, who handled divorce proceedings in Florida, said that while there was no judicial order preventing Ms. McBeth from leaving the country at that time, by doing so she still violated Florida's interference with custody law.

Additionally, in Florida's dissolution of marriage statute, a parent must give 30 days notice to the other parent before relocating the child, which Ms. McBeth failed to do, he said.

“She never provided any information whatsoever,” he said. “She disappeared and we had no idea where she was.”

Ms. McBeth said that on the second day of her arrival to Germany, her husband called her to make sure she had arrived safely.  “He knew I was leaving,” said Ms. McBeth, who is being held in an immigration detention center in Hatillo.

Cuomo had been named the sole parental custodian of Amadeo after April 30, 2007, the same day that the FBI issued a warrant order for Ms. McBeth, said Katz. According to Katz, Cuomo first asked for sole parental responsibility when filing a counter petition for the divorce Dec. 15, 2006, accusing Ms. McBeth of using marijuana in the presence of her child. Ms. McBeth denies the charge.

In a Karlsruhe, Germany, court Ms. McBeth attempted to seek refugee status, accusing her husband of physically abusing her. The judge dismissed the charges due to a lack of credibility, said Katz, who called the accusations “patently false.”

“There's never been a police report filed by her. There's never been a 911 call filed by her. There's never been anything in the divorce case filed by her,” he said. “There's no evidence, but more importantly were never any allegations filed in Florida. She's never made an allegation there before to the police or to any court.”

Ms. McBeth's petition for refugee status is at the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería, an agency of the ministry.

Religion is no barrier
to driver's blood test

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

A man who claimed he should not be required to take a blood test for a driver's license has lost his appeal to the Sala IV constitutional court.

In April, the man, identified by the last names of Núñez Herrera, sought to obtain a license renewal, but a new rule required him to get a blood test. The idea is that listing the blood type on a license will help aid workers and physicians in case of an accident.

Although the man argued that his religion, which was not specified, prohibited him from giving a blood sample, the Sala IV rejected the case.

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Arias and staff going for a train ride to Heredia Friday
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The first official trip on the renewed Heredia rail line will be Friday when President Óscar Arias Sánchez, his ministers, staff and reporters ride a train to a consejo de gobierno session in Heredia from San José.

The line has been cleared, repaired and put back into service. Regular passenger service between Heredia and the former Estación al Atlantico near Parque Nacional is expected to begin in January.

The rail line, once a vital transportation link, fell into disuse after rail passenger service was terminated in 1998. Some cargo shipments continued to be made from the port of Caldera to Tibás until recently.

The Instituto Costarricense de Ferrocarriles had to repair the trackage, install one bridge and repair others to bring the line back into service. There also was large quantities of garbage, soil and rocks dumped on parts of the track. Work crews have been using the track for months.

The executive president of the rail institute, Miguel Carabaguiaz, and other government employees checked out
the line Tuesday. They were in a sports utility vehicle modified for operating on tracks when a conventional vehicle bumped into them at a crossing. No one was hurt, but the crash points out the type of problem that the valley rail line has been having because there are no crossing gates or signals.

The train engines on the Heredia line are distinctive for repeatedly blowing their horns because of the number of unprotected street crossings.

Officials have said that they would like to electrify the entire valley train system. The line is complete from Caldera on the Pacific to a point north of San José where the line enters the central mountains. Train service also is available for cargo along the Caribbean coast and from Limón inland about 60 kms or about 37 miles. Officials have made no public statements about restoring the damaged link through the mountains.

The consejo de gobierno is the president's cabinet meeting. The session is normally private but usually followed by a press conference.

The one Friday will be at the Palacio de los Deportes.

Special session to air legislative flap over telecom panel
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The legislature will meet in special session Friday morning for what may be an all-day debate over three board members of the new Superintendencia de Telecomunicaciones.

The Authoridad Reguladora de Servicios Públicos has selected five candidates out of about 80 applicants. Under the new telecommunications law, the Asamblea Legislativa can vote to confirm or reject the candidates.

Members of the Partido Acción Ciudadana are unhappy with one choice, that of Vanessa de Paul Castro Mora, 44, a lawyer who served in the legislature from 1998 to 2000 as a representative of another political party, Unidad Social Cristiana.

Under the law, if the legislature does not vote one way or the other within 30 days, the candidates are confirmed automatically. So part of the debate in the legislature is exactly when the names were proposed. The regulating authority announced the choices Nov. 13, but it is not clear when the nominations formally reached the desk of the assembly president, Francisco Antonio Pacheco Fernández.

Acción Ciudadana also said it is not happy with the selection of Juan Manuel Quesada Espinoza, a 30-year-old lawyer for the agency, as the panel's substitute member.

Ms. Castro, in addition to being the member of a rival party, also is too closely associated with Repretel, the
television network, according to Acción Ciudadana. And Quesada is suspect because of his employment with the agency.

The five panel members would have broad authority over the rates and quality of service in the telecommunications field, which is being opened to private competition. The telecommunications law, part of the implementing legislation for the free trade treaty with the United States, eliminates the former monopoly held by the government's Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad.

There is another factor. Pacheco, the assembly president, noted Wednesday that the appointments are the last official actions necessary to bring the free trade treaty into effect. The deadline for Costa Rica to get its legal house in order is Dec. 31, but lawmakers are going on a holiday break soon, which is why a special session has been called.

Acción Ciudadana opposes the free trade treaty. The panel members are expected to be named to their posts because Pacheco's Partido Liberación Nacional, Unidad, Movimiento Libertario and two independent lawmakers constitute a two-thirds majority in the assembly. But assembly rules allow prolonged debate.

In addition to Ms. Castro and the substitute board member, Quesada, the other two nominees are Carlos Raúl Gutiérrez Gutiérrez, 50, an economist with a specialty in public finance, and George Petrie Miley Rojas, 33, who has seven years experience in the telecommunication field, the agency reported Nov. 13.

Gold mining firm warns it will arbitrate lack of permits
Special to A.M. Costa Rica
via The CAFTA Report

A Canadian-American mining company has filed a notice that it intends to seek arbitration to be reimbursed some several hundred million dollars from the government of El Salvador. The claim is being pursued under the Central American Free Trade Agreement.

The company, Pacific Rim Mining Corp. of Vancouver said Tuesday that its subsidiary, Pac Rim Cayman LLC, a Nevada corporation, was making the claim. The company left open the door that an informal resolution might be made within the next 90 days.

A mine design for the company's El Dorado gold project was submitted to the government of El Salvador in its final form in October 2006, over two years ago, the company said. But the government has yet to issue the needed permits,

By exploring, discovering and delineating gold deposits in El Salvador while at all times operating in full compliance with El Salvadoran law, Pacific Rim has developed
 precious metal assets higher in value than the investment of over US $75 million undertaken in El Salvador by the company and its predecessors, the company said.

"With the mine operating, Pacific Rim would be the single greatest contributor to the tax revenues of the country, and rather than providing thousands of new lucrative jobs for El Salvadorans, we have had to dismiss over 200 local workers in the past few months," said Tom Shrake, president and CEO of Pacific Rim.

The company said it would press the claim through the World Bank's International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes in Washington, D.C. This arbitration system is set out in the trade treaty.

Some Central Americans object to the arbitration provision because it puts their actions under international review. This has been a criticism in Costa Rica, too.

However, international investors like the idea of an arbitration review to counter governmental high handedness.

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San José, Costa Rica, Thursday, Dec. 11, 2008, Vol. 8, No. 246

Study said trace element molybdenum is key to rainforest
By the Princeton University news service

A team of researchers led by Princeton University scientists has found for the first time that tropical rainforests, a vital part of the Earth's ecosystem, rely on the rare trace element molybdenum to capture the nitrogen fertilizer needed to support their wildly productive growth.  Most of the nitrogen that supports the rapid, lush growth of rainforests comes from tiny bacteria that can turn nitrogen in the air into fertilizer in the soil.

Until now, scientists had thought that phosphorus was the key element supporting the prodigious expansion of rainforests, according to Lars Hedin, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Princeton University who led the research. But an experiment testing the effects of various elements on test plots in lowland rainforests on the Gigante Peninsula in the Barro Colorado Nature Monument in Panamá showed that areas treated with molybdenum withdrew more nitrogen from the atmosphere than other elements.

"We were surprised," said Hedin, who is also a professor in the Princeton Environmental Institute. "It's not what we were expecting."

The report, detailed in the Dec. 7 online edition of Nature Geoscience, will be the journal's cover story in its print edition.

Molybdenum, the team found, is essential for controlling the biological conversion of nitrogen in the atmosphere into
natural soil nitrogen fertilizer, which in turn spurs plant
growth. "Just like trace amounts of vitamins are essential for human health, this exceedingly rare trace metal is indispensable for the vital function of tropical rainforests in the larger Earth system," Hedin said.  Molybdenum is 10,000 times less abundant than phosphorus and other major nutrients in these ecosystems.

The discovery has implications for global climate change policy, the scientists said. Previously, researchers knew little about rainforests' capacity to absorb the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. If molybdenum is central to the biochemical processes involved in the uptake of carbon dioxide, then there may be limits to how much carbon that tropical rainforests can absorb.

The biological enzyme, nitrogenase, which converts atmospheric nitrogen into soil fertilizer, feeds on molybdenum, the researchers found. "Nitrogenase without molybdenum is like a car engine without spark plugs," said Alexander Barron, the lead author on the paper, who was a graduate student in Hedin's laboratory and earned his Ph.D. in ecology and evolutionary biology from Princeton in 2007. He now is working on climate legislation in Congress.

Molybdenum, a lustrous, silvery metal, is found in soil, rock and sea water and in a range of enzymes vital to human health. Traces of the element have been found in Japanese swords dating back to the 14th century. In modern times, its high strength, good electrical conductivity and anticorrosive properties have made molybdenum desirable as an element of rocket engines, radiation shields, light bulb filaments and circuit boards.

Investigators might get right to actually question crooks
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Here's a great idea: Suppose after capturing a criminal suspect police sit the individual down and ask questions about the crime.

No rubber hoses, No waterboarding. Just a discussion in the presence of the suspect's lawyer or public defender. Coffee and a cigarette optional.

Of course this is a scene daily on the television where clever detectives obtain incriminating admissions or useful information from a suspect.
But you can't do that in Costa Rica. That is considered a violation of rights.

The special legislative committee considering security issues decided to change that law Wednesday and approved a motion put forth by Luis Carlos Araya Monge that a suspect can be questioned by investigators within the first six hours after apprehension.

However, a summary provided by the legislature said that information developed during this questioning can only be used to further the police investigation and cannot be considered a confession on the part of the accused.

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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.


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.

Advertising information
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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.

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Arias helps turn weapons
into pieces of metal junk

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

President Óscar Arias Sánchez presided Wednesday as some 1,759 firearms were chopped up at Casa Presidencial. The goal was to reduce the number of weapons in circulation. These weapons had been confiscated during various police actions.

Some 642 of the destroyed weapons were long guns.

Arias said that he alway raises his voice against arms in the schools, in the high schools, in the university and in the international organizations. He is promoting an international treaty at the United Nations that would require nations to keep track of the guns that are produced within their boundaries and shipped to other countries.

Officials estimate that 61 percent of the nation's murders are accomplished with firearms.

In addition to Arias, present at the destruction were  Janina del Vecchio, the security minister, and Luiza Carvalho of the United Nation's Development Programme.

More cell telephone lines
promised over four months

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The telephone company said it will be offering 100,000 new GSM cell phone lines in two weeks. This is in addition to the 60,000 that are being offered Monday to those who have signed up.

Eventually the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad said that it would get 300,000 total new lines by installing some $50 million in equipment from Ericsson. The next batch of 100,000 will be available in about two months, and the final 100,000 will be available in about four months, the company said.

The 60,000 lines that go on sale Monday has come from individuals and firms that have surrendered them.

EARTH plans graduation

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Universidad EARTH, the Escuela Agrícola del Trópico Húmedo, in Guácimo will graduate 96 students Friday, and among the spectators will be José Manuel Zelaya Rosales, the president of Honduras who is visiting. Among the graduates are 10 from Honduras.

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