Multiple raids target prostitution, sex slavery and criminality

Judicial Investigating Organization photo
Police and judicial agents on duty outside el Pueblo.

Law officers raided a Pacific coast night club Thursday and detained a woman on suspicion of operating a sex slavery ring.

The next night more than 100 officers of several agencies descended on four bars, two in Nicoya, one in Santa Cruz and a fourth in Playas de Coco. They uncovered a lot of information that they said would be subjected to further analysis.

Then late Saturday and early Sunday some law officer infiltrated the crowd at El Pueblo in north San José and laid the groundwork for a raid at 3 a.m. that resulted in the questioning of 1,123 persons during a session that lasted until 7 a.m.

The Thursday raid in Santa Rosa de Tamarindo resulted in the release of six illegal immigrant women who said they were being held against their will. The women had been smuggled into the area from Nicaragua and forced to work as prostitutes at the night club while under guard, they told officers of the Policía Profesional de Migración.

The woman who was detained was identified by the last names of González Espinoza. Agents said that she retained the passports of the women and also arranged the business deals for them.

The six women are in the custody of the Oficina de Atención y Protección a la Victima, immigration officials said. They also noted that a new and tougher immigration law has been approved but not yet published in the La Gaceta official newspaper.

The Friday night raids on the four Pacific coast bars involved the Fuerza Pública, agents of the Judicial Investigating Organization, agents of the local International Police Agency, and immigration officers. Also there, said judicial agents, were members of a foundation involved in the rescue of victims of sexual exploitation. This is believed to be the Fundación Rahab that participates in such sweeps in San José.

The purpose of the sweeps was to interview the women there to see if they have been victims of sexual exploitation, said judicial agents.

Agents said 96 women between 18 and 30 were found at the four locations. They included Costa Ricans, Nicaraguans, Dominicans and some from Panamá, Argentina, Honduras and Colombia, agents said.

Curiously, agents said that most of the foreign women had attained residency by marriage to Costa Rican men, but nearly all had divorced after a short time. This is one of the aspects that will be studied, agents said. Arranging fake marriages is now a crime.

The investigators said that the bars have licenses as either a hotel or pensión. Consequently they have rooms on the premises that are used for the purposes of prostitution, and these quarters were unhealthy, they said.

Agents also located one underage person drinking at one establishment and a bar in Playas del Coco that allowed barely legal women to enter without showing identifications, they said.

The effort at El Pueblo was more one of crime suppression. The Judicial Investigating Organization said that many crimes happen outside El Pueblo in the early morning. The commercial center is the location of a number of popular dance clubs.

The agency said that 40 agents were involved in the sweep and that there were 15 members of the Grupo de Apoyo Operacional, the security ministry’s tactical squad.

There have been reports of rapes, threats with firearms and knives, people shooting into the air, the consumption of drugs and the presence of stolen vehicles, agents said.

Agents said they found two motorcycles with altered serial numbers and 10 vehicles with the license plates obscured. An accident nearby resulted in the arrest of a motorist for drunk driving, and a motorcycle operator also had an accident and was injured when he saw law officers and tried to leave abruptly, agents said.

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