The high-profile trial of a prostitute and taxidriver accused of renting out teenage girls towell-to-do male clients for more than a decadehas implicated enough people to keep investigatorsbusy for months after the final gavel drops.Defendants Sinaí Monge and cab driver CristianSolano are accused of pimping – the illegal organizationof prostitutes – and illicit association foralleged sex crimes between 1992-2003.The flurry of hints and accusations that have surfacedduring the testimony of the witnesses since the trialbegan Feb. 8 has implicated, but not named, politicians,other public officials, soccer players, businessmen andforeigners who may have used Monge’s alleged services.DURING the trial, which is open to the public, mothershave testified that Monge rented their underage daughtersto clients, which, if true, would make both the clientand the pimp accountable by law. (Adult prostitution isallowed in Costa Rica.)Child Welfare Minister Rosalía Gil, not connected to the trial but distinguished as a defender ofchildren’s rights, said she hopes this casehelps those children allegedly involvedwith Monge and that it sets a precedent forothers in similar situations.“It’s an important work doing justicefor the girls. There’s no impunity in CostaRica for this kind of (alleged) exploitation,”Gil said.THE first day of the trial last week sawprosecutors Ana Eugenia Salazar andKaren Valverde deliver to the three presidingjudges a box of four daily planners and91 business cards they said were takenfrom Monge’s home.Later, a former judicial police officer,Juan Carlos Ulate, testified that names andphotos of “the highest politicians,” nationalsoccer stars and others were found in herhome.He testified an official with the SecondCircuit Court was seen with Monge and a15-year-old girl, and a wiretap revealedthat Monge might have had a contact withinthe Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ)that warned her of imminent police raids.ACCORDING to other witnesses,including mothers of girls who allegedlyworked with Monge and minors who testifiedin private to protect their identities,dozens of “muchachitas,” girls ages 14-15,were exploited through Monge’s service.The daily La Nación detailed the testimonyof one 15-year-old girl’s mother,whose name was withheld to protect theidentity of the minor. She said her daughterhad associated with Monge since she was12, having sex with paying clients.Her daughter was a studious homebody,she said, until Monge invited her andher friends to “pajama parties,” and shecame home with expensive perfumes, a$500 cell phone and had a $5,000 bankaccount. Her daughter told her Mongecharged clients $300 but paid her ¢10,000,she testified.THIS week, the judges heard statementsfrom police officer Erica Madrid,who said she took frequent anonymouscomplaints by phone from Monge’s neighborsover a period of 3.5 years.Through the calls and police patrols,police had determined the house was abrothel. Cars of all kinds, taxis and even amicrobus delivered people, includingGringos and other foreigners, in front ofthe house. Neighbors and patrols saw menof all ages and young girls frequenting theplace, Madrid said.Two witnesses called by prosecutors,Spanish journalists from the news station ElMundo TV, didn’t confirm their attendanceat the trial, and may not testify. The stationbroadcast and later published a story on theirWeb site headlined “El Mundo TV Uncoversa Network of Child Sex Exploitation inCosta Rica,” in March 2001. The reports,admitted as evidence Wednesday, may havespurred Costa Rica’s investigation intoMonge’s activities.IN the tape, a reporter called a womannamed Sinaí asking her to arrange a liaisonwith some young girls, and she agreed. Thereporters later met the girls.Monge was arrested Oct. 9, 2003, andhas served a preventive detention sentencein prison since then.Government prosecutors remainedsilent about the case this week and thespokesman for the special sex crimesinvestigation unit was not available forcomment.MONGE’S defense attorney, JoséAntonio Arguedas, said his client neverrecruited girls, and the charges against taxidriver Solano are misplaced because heonly did his job and charged people for theride, nothing else.“It’s a fact that Sinaí (Monge) workedher whole life as a prostitute, prostitutingherself,” Arguedas said. “People would askher if she had a friend and she referred them(the girls). She never looked for them, neversought them out. The girls decided themselvesif they would go. They weren’tforced. There is a moral principle to consider,but Sinaí never provoked them.”He said Monge charged the girls acommission for the reference, but arguedthat’s not illegal according to the lawagainst exploiting prostitutes. Article 169of Penal Code 4573 prohibits people frominducing or recruiting others into prostitution,with a penalty of 2-5 years in prison,but says nothing about making a profit offof it, which means it’s legal, the defenseattorney interprets.THE trial could end next week,according to Sergio Bonilla, spokesmanfor the Judicial Branch.Other Accusations Surface in TrialA judge was drawn into the bout ofaccusations against government officials,sports stars and others unleashed duringthe sex crimes trial for Sinaí Monge,accused of exploiting underage prostitutes.In his testimony, former judicial policeofficer Juan Carlos Ulate said a wiretaprevealed that Monge’s son Charlie hadbribed a judge at an unrelated trial.During one of the many conversations onwhich police eavesdropped, the officialsaid they heard Charlie tell his defenseattorney he had paid the Second Circuitjudge. Later, he said, Charlie was let offthe hook.José Antonio Arguedas, a member ofMonge’s legal defense team, told TheTico Times the former officer stepped outof bounds with that comment.“The witness couldn’t legally saywhat he said,” Arguedas said.Investigators using wiretaps swear to useonly the information that pertains to thecrimes they are looking into, he said. Headded that he has seen the trial mentioned– a robbery trial – and the threejudges were women, though the witnesshad said Charlie paid off a male judge.Arguedas said Charlie is not attendingthe trial because it’s hard for him tosee his mother accused of these crimes,“even if she’s innocent.”State prosecutors said they areinvestigating every lead, including thoseunrelated to the trial at hand.
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