Fugitive doc pays victim, walks on abuse charges

January 6, 2012

An international arrest warrant and fresh charges of sexual abuse against a minor were not enough to keep Dr. German Enrique Moreno in jail. Costa Rican authorities quietly released Moreno from preventive detention on Dec. 23, after the plaintiff in the case, a minor at the time the alleged abuse took place, agreed to an undisclosed financial settlement. 

Moreno was arrested Aug. 22 on charges that he allegedly sexually assaulted the minor, who is now 19. 

Andrea Marín, a spokeswoman from the Supreme Court, confirmed the deal that allowed Moreno to walk, despite an outstanding Interpol arrest warrant on similar charges in the United States (TT, Aug. 26, 22, 19, 12, 9, 2011).

“The [plaintiff and defendant] have the option of reaching a settlement at any stage of the legal process,” Marín said. “It was a private negotiation and we are unable to provide the details and conditions of the agreement.” 

On Wednesday, Channel 7’s Telenoticias reported that Moreno agreed to pay the victim ₡12 million ($23,500), although the court spokeswoman and Moreno’s attorney, Alejandra Araya, would not confirm the amount. Alexandra Morales, the alleged victim’s attorney, also would not comment.

“As an attorney, I can tell you that the accusations [against Moreno] were false, and we have been able to gather enough evidence to prove that. But when the liberty of my client was on the line, I had to protect him, so we opted to go through with the settlement,” Araya said. 

Residents from the southern Nicoya Peninsula beach town of Playa Carmen, where Moreno operated a medical clinic out of his storefront home until his arrest in August, said the doctor returned to the clinic over Christmas weekend. 

On Tuesday, The Tico Times confirmed that Moreno’s beachside clinic is open for business, and Moreno, who is still legally licensed to practice medicine in Costa Rica, is accepting patients.

Moreno previously was convicted of sexually abusing minors aged 14 to 17 in Costa Rica in the 1990s. He fled to the United States and failed to serve a nine-year sentence on the charges. The statute of limitations on those charges has since expired.

Moreno was arrested again in 2005 in Houston, Texas, in the U.S., on charges of sexually abusing at least seven victims, all minors at the time. Through a clinic and at a local church, Moreno had contact with dozens of other underage boys. He also  practiced medicine without a license. 

After posting bond, Moreno fled the U.S. and disappeared, until a Tico Times investigation tracked him to a Playa Carmen clinic last August. An Interpol warrant for Moreno is still valid, citing crimes against children and sex crimes. However, the Costa Rican Constitution bars nationals from being extradited.

Officials from the Costa Rican Doctors and Surgeons Association, which issues medical licenses in Costa Rica, said they could not revoke Moreno’s medical license until being notified to proceed by the Prosecutor’s Office. 

“We have to abide by what the judicial courts will decide in Moreno’s case,” Marino Ramírez, the doctors association’s chief investigator, said on Tuesday. 

According to Ramírez, the association’s own internal investigation was put on hold once the Prosecutor’s Office initiated its investigation. 

The alleged victim in the most recent case, who asked The Tico Times to withhold his name, said in August that he filed a criminal complaint after learning through media reports that the doctor is wanted in the U.S. on nine counts of child sexual abuse in Houston. 

According to the alleged victim’s attorney at the time of Moreno’s latest arrest in Costa Rica, the doctor was “obsessed” with her client, who lived with the doctor for two years in Playa Carmen, along with his mother and two siblings. It was during this time that the abuse allegedly occurred.

The family moved out of Moreno’s residence in December 2010, but the doctor continued to harass and intimidate them, according to family members and witnesses who spoke to The Tico Times.

After meeting with a lawyer, a psychologist and a social worker, the family obtained a restraining order against Moreno last July in Jacó. They said he continued to contact them through an acquaintance before he was arrested. The restraining order remains in effect, a source said on Tuesday. 

Neighbors in Playa Carmen first alerted The Tico Times that the fugitive Moreno was living in their community, practicing medicine legally at a local clinic and spending time at local schools. Those residents now say they are shocked to learn that Moreno has been released from prison and is again practicing medicine in their community.

“I’m still in disbelief. I’m really let down by the system and concerned about [residents’] safety,” said one community member, who asked to remain anonymous.

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