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Saturday, December 2, 2023

17 Arrested in Costa Rica for Defrauding American Retirees

A major operation by Costa Rica’s Judicial Investigation Agency (OIJ) has led to 17 arrests linked to an international fraud ring that targeted American Retirees in the United States. Raids at upscale residences across the greater San José area were conducted based on a report from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) detailing the large-scale scam.

According to OIJ officials, the FBI uncovered illicit activities by a Costa Rican criminal group that defrauded U.S. seniors by posing as federal officials over the phone. The scammers convinced victims they had won a prize, then requested funds be wired to Costa Rican bank accounts supposedly to process prize payouts.

Preliminary FBI estimates indicate financial losses exceeding $1 million, with the total expected to rise as joint investigations continue. Costa Rican authorities carried out 14 raids beginning at 9:00 a.m. on Thursday, focusing on luxury rented residences frequently changed by the criminals to avoid detection.

The fraud ring allegedly operated across Escazú, Tibás, Curridabat, Cartago, Pavas, Ciudad Colón, Heredia, Aserrí, and Santa Ana. OIJ’s Deputy Director General, Pablo Calvo, reported the seizure of over $180,000 in cash and eight high-end vehicles.

The 17 detainees were identified as men ranging from age 28 to 54 years old with the surnames Fonseca, Sánchez, Zavaleta, Calvo, Brenes, Paniagua, Chacón, Chaves, Santana, and Guevara. The suspects remain in custody and will be brought before prosecutors to determine appropriate charges.

Authorities said close collaboration between the FBI and OIJ’s specialized units against organized crime, fraud, and cybercrime made the decisive crackdown possible. Officials praised the successful joint operation to dismantle the Costa Rica-based scam bilking vulnerable U.S. victims.

However, they emphasized investigations will continue into the cross-border criminal syndicate’s reach and any additional accomplices. OIJ urged the public to immediately report any suspicious calls or online scams to authorities.

With fraud schemes growing increasingly sophisticated, officials stressed the need for citizens, especially seniors, to exercise caution sharing personal information and making payments over the phone, email or online. Scammers are known to impersonate trusted institutions such as banks, insurers, and even law enforcement.

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