Prosecutors take action in three major criminal cases

Judicial police and prosecutors detained 19 persons in the vicinity of Puntarenas Centro on allegations of robbery, threats, extortion and drug trafficking. The Poder Judicial said 12 of the suspects are current police officers and that three were former police officers. One person detained was a priest from a Puntarenas church.

The arrests followed 15 raids in the area headed by organized crime prosecutors. All but the priest were being held overnight in cells of the Judicial Investigating Organization in San José. Court appearances are expected today.

But that was not the only action against corruption Wednesday. The Poder Judicial revealed that 11 prison guards were being questioned formally in the beating death May 21 of inmate Jovel Guillermo Araya Ramírez following an abortive breakout attempt May 11. No names were released, but such questioning is part of the process of leveling criminal allegations. The 11 are expected to be in court this morning, too. They were among more than 20 guards investigated in the case.

Meanwhile on the Caribbean side, a former mayor of Matina, two municipal workers and two employees of local firms were detained in an investigation of embezzlement of public funds. The original allegation came from the current municipal mayor.

The suspects were being held in Goicoechea but were appearing via video at a court hearing in Limón.

Agents had been investigating the Puntarenas situation since February, they said. The allegations run deep. The Roman Catholic priest, identified by the last names of Montes de Oca Cordero, went free Wednesday afternoon after being questioned.

That happened when the organized crime prosecutors determined that the priest would face a fraud charge but that his actions did not relate to
the criminal framework that involved the other suspects, said the Poder Judicial. The priest was ordered to make himself available for additional questioning. The allegation is that he misappropriated donations made by churchgoers and turned the money over to the other individuals.

Those who remain detained were identified by the last names of Jiménez Fallas, Fait Montiel, Rosales Medina, Araya Villalobos, Mena Arrieta, Ramírez Díaz, Quesada Alvarez, Carballo Ugalde, Montes Carrillo, Montenegro Reina, Matarrita Aguirre and Boza Castillo, all active members of the Fuerza Pública. The former policemen have the last names of Guerrero Matarrita, Ulate Torrente and Arnett Barboza, said the Poder Judicial.

Private citizens who were detained have the last names of Mellado Centeno, Nuñez Marroquín and Cordero Morales, the Poder Judicial said.

The 18 individuals are accused of conducting a reign of terror in their community by dealing in drugs, intimidating witnesses and threatening and extorting money from residents. The policemen identified by the last names of Jiménez Fallas and Fait Montiel were said to be leaders of the group.

The Matina case involves the ex-mayor, identified by the last names of Colphan Reid and two municipal employees, identified by the last names of Acevedo Calderón y Valverde Espinoza, said the Poder Judicial. The suspects who work for companies that sold supplies to the municipality were identified by the last names of Alvarado Lizano and Díaz Zeledón.

According to the Poder Judicial some 25 million colons authorized by the Asamblea Legislativa for various schools in the zone were misappropriated. That is about $50,000.

Prosecutors say that the money was paid to the firms to supply the items but that never happened. The prosecutors also contend that the purchase orders given the firms contained false signatures and stamps, said the Poder Judicial.

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