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Costa Rica ex-lawmaker gets probation for embezzlement charges

September 16, 2013

A criminal court in San José on Monday sentenced former National Liberation Party (PLN) lawmaker Maureen Ballestero to three years in prison, although the sentence was reduced to probation.

In a plea agreement, Ballestero pleaded guilty to two counts of embezzlement for using Public Security Ministry aircraft to attend personal activities in 2009.

The former lawmaker, who served from 2006-2010, was banned from serving in public office for three years, and must serve the prison sentence if convicted of another crime in the future.

The court ordered her to pay the government $3,190 in damages, plus trial costs.

In 2009, Ballestero – then vice president of the Legislative Assembly – used Public Security Ministry planes to fly to Liberia, Guanacaste, where she was supposed to attend working meetings. But during the trips she also attended PLN regional assemblies leading up to the 2010 presidential campaign.

Ballestero’s daughter, Natalia Chávez Ballestero, who also was charged with one count of embezzlement for accompaning her mother, was sentenced to 120 hours of community service at the National Police Academy.

Judge Hugo Porter warned Chávez that the “community service must be performed at Police Academy facilities and not through any electronic means.”

Following the sentencing, Ballestero told reporters she does not rule out a run for public office after the 36-month ban expires.

She said she would wait for a “sign from God.” 

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