This time it’s a man seeks refuge against extradition

Immigration officials are being asked to provide the same refugee protection for a man as they have for a woman.

A U.S. citizen on the verge of being extradited on an allegation of telemarketing fraud is seeking refugee status to protect him from the U.S. Justice Department.

The man is Gregory Scott Garrett, who worked with USA Beverages Inc., Twin Peaks Gourmet Coffee, Inc., and a string of other companies that took money from U.S. citizens with the promise that they would be able to start a vending business. The scams were run out of Escazú, Santa Ana and also in offices in the Sabana Office Center, although the scammers gave would-be customers the impression that the businesses were located in the United States, the U.S; Justice Department has said. Garrett also is known locally as John White.

The man’s lawyer, Arcelio Hernández Mussio, has fought the case in other courts to keep his client from being returned to the United States.

The case is very similar to that of Chere Lyn Tomayko, a U.S. woman who was granted refugee status by Janina Del Vecchio, then security minster, July 23, 2008. U.S. officials said that Ms. Tomayko abducted her minor child and fled to Costa Rica in 1998. Ms. Tomayko filed four Sala IV constitutional court appeals to delay her extradition and also claimed she had been a victim of domestic violence when she lived in the United States.

Hernández, in his filing for refugee status specifically mentions the Tomayko case and argues that his client, Garrett, has become a citizen by virtue of living with a Costa Rican woman and having two children by her. He lived in San Antonio de Escazú before his February arrest. He now is in the San Sebastián prison facilities in San José. Supporters of Ms. Tomayko made similar arguments.

Costa Rican law prohibits the extradition of citizens.

The appeal to the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería also restates the argument that Garrett would be subject to life imprisonment because of the penalties for the multiple charges he faces. Such a penalty is forbidden under Costa Rican law.

Hernández appealed the extradition order through the second judicial circuit in San José, but courts there upheld the order.

Under Costa Rican law an extradition is halted until an appeal for refugee status is decided. Hernández also is arguing that because Garrett worked in Costa Rica, the U.S. laws do not apply and that his activities would be a civil violation at best and not criminal here.

The U.S. Justice Department said that the long-running business opportunity frauds frequently preyed on elderly U.S. citizens. Eight other persons have been convicted in the United States because they worked in the telemarketing operation here. Hernández also argues that Garrett was just an employee and not a principal of the scheme.

The U.S. indictment alleges that the companies employed various types of sales representatives, including fronters, closers, and references. A fronter spoke to potential purchasers when the prospective purchasers initially contacted the company in response to an advertisement. A closer subsequently spoke to potential purchasers to close deals. References spoke to potential purchasers about the financial success they purportedly had experienced since purchasing one of the business opportunities.

The indictment alleges that Garrett, called White in the document, using assumed names, was a fronter and reference for USA Beverages, a fronter and reference for Twin Peaks, a fronter and reference for Cards-R-Us, a fronter, closer and reference for Premier Cards, and a fronter, closer and reference for Coffee Man.

When Garrett was detained, the U.S. Justice Department said that he faced charges of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, and with committing the offenses via telemarketing. In addition, the agency added, he was charged with five counts of mail fraud and 13 counts of wire fraud. Garrett faces a maximum statutory term of 25 years in prison, a possible fine and mandatory restitution on the conspiracy count. He also faces a maximum statutory term of 25 years in prison on each of the mail and wire fraud counts, a possible fine and mandatory restitution, the Justice Department said at the time.

Prior court cases involving the same companies established that there were some 250 victims in the United States and each put up at least $10,000, the Justice Department has said.

Ultimately the refugee request will be decided by Mario Zamora Cordero, the security minister.

When he was head of immigration during the Tomayko case, he did not support her request and said that fear of domestic violence was not a legal reason to prevent extradition. He was a subordinate of Ms. Del Vecchio at the time.

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