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U.S. woman says Costa Rica ‘tried to forcibly extradite me without due process’

November 21, 2008

A U.S. citizen was arrested on Friday in Montezuma, on the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula, on the Pacific, and her toddler son taken away from her, however, she said she has yet to see formal charges.

Mary Anginette McBeth, 37, is being held in the Temporary Detention Center for Foreigners in Hatillo, a southern suburb of San José.

A real estate agent from Surfside, Florida, McBeth has been living in Costa Rica since September 2007 under the name Nova Johnson.

McBeth said that she was on her annual visit last spring to see her other son, 17, who lives in Heidelberg, Germany when her husband, Luigi Cuomo, 50 – a furniture importer originally from Naples, Italy, last living in Coconut Grove, Florida – filed international kidnapping charges against her. McBeth has filed for a contested divorce against Cuomo, which is pending in a Florida court, she said in an exclusive interview with The Tico Times at the detention center.

The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children´s Web site says an FBI International Parental Kidnapping warrant was issued against McBeth for the abduction of her son, Amedeo Cuomo, 2, and that the two have been missing since May 2007.

Asked what charges she´s seen in Costa Rica, McBeth said “They haven´t brought any charges against me here. They have violated my rights at every turn.… And they have not told me anything about my child in three days.”

She said Immigration officials, the same ones who arrested her in Montezuma, came to the center yesterday to see her and “tried to forcibly take me to the U.S. Consulate. …They´re trying to forcibly extradite me without due process.”

“I said, ‘I need to talk to my lawyer,´” McBeth said, “and they said, ‘No, you don´t really.´ I said, ‘Do I have a right to talk to my lawyer?´” to which, per McBeth, the Immigration officials responded, “‘Well, yeah.´”

She is primarily concerned about her son.

“I´ve had no news about my son. I do not know his whereabouts. Everybody has told me he´s in PANI,” said McBeth, referring to the Child Welfare Office.

McBeth said that friends have tried to contact PANI offices in San José and Puntarenas but have been unable to locate the child.

McBeth did not mention a visit by any embassy official.

An English-speaking inmate, however, confirmed that both a representative from the U.S. Embassy and the three Immigration officials showed up. The inmate, who declined to give his name or nationality for fear that Immigration officials would delay his case, said the embassy representative arrived and met with, but did not identify himself to, McBeth. The inmate said he and other inmates watched the embassy representative give McBeth a pamphlet that detailed her rights as a U.S. citizen in Costa Rica. The inmate added the embassy official said he did not know the charges against her, nor who she was.

Employees at the detention center said that John Ice, a vice consul at the U.S. Embassy, came to the center to see McBeth, but said no Immigration officials had come.

Reached after hours, Ice would not confirm if he had been to the center to visit McBeth yesterday and declined to comment on any details of the case.

Center employees said they did not know what charges were brought against McBeth, and that all file information is kept at the Immigration offices in the northwestern San José district of La Uruca.

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