Immigration agent nabbed at airport in visa fraud

The detained immigration agent is led to a vehicle that will carry him to a meeting with prosecutors. Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública photo

Costa Rican immigration police apprehended one of their own Tuesday morning at Juan Santamaría airport. The suspect, an immigration agent, faces a corruption allegation involving visas.

The suspect, identified with the last name of Gómez, falsified over the last several months the immigration movements of foreigners attempting to stay in Costa Rica illegally, said the Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública.

Gómez did this by altering the entrance and departure logs maintained in the national database called SIMMEL, the ministry said.

Isolated discrepancies were discovered following an investigation sparked by an anonymous tip in June of this year, according to a news release. The investigation focused on instances since June in which Gómez legalized the status of the four immigrants from Columbia. But the tipster claimed that such activity had been going on since 2003, according to the ministry.

The special investigation unit of immigration police under the the direction of fraud prosecutors discovered specific inconsistencies between what was entered into the tracking system and the actual movements of the four Columbians, the ministry said. Officials said they determined that the immigrants involved hadn’t actually traveled on the days they were documented in the system as having traveled; nor had the Columbians applied for visas to enter Costa Rica.

The ministry said in the press release that the investigation is still ongoing and that it is fundamental to clean the house.

The Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería is an agency within the security ministry. There have been continual allegations of foreigners renewing tourist visas and other documents without making the obligatory trips outside the country. In some cases, foreigners from some countries require visas issued by Costa Rican consular officials to enter the country.

A.M. Costa Rica reported last year on the entry here of prostitutes from the Dominican Republic who said they paid part of a bribe at a side door of the immigration office in La Uruca.

Mario Zamora Cordero is the former director of immigration. He now is security minister. During his term at immigration, he oversaw the replacement of stamps used by immigration agents at entry and exit points of the country. The goal was to eliminate the illegal use of older rubber stamps and to put into service stamps that identified the agent who applied the mark to a passport.

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