The Luis Ángel Milanes Tamayo fraud case has taken another turn. A judge has ordered the case to trial, according to messages some lawyers are sending their clients. There has been no confirmation by the Poder Judicial.
Judge Dayanna Segura Mena has been considering the case for nearly three weeks. The judge is about to go on maternity leave, and former investors in the Milanes operation, Savings Unlimited, were worried that the case would go back to square one if a new judge took over.
Judge Segura has received praise from some of the investors for her attention to detail and understanding of the case. There has been a procession of judges and prosecutors since Milanes returned to Costa Rica in June 2008.
Some investors expressed disappointment that the judge did not also order that Milanes be put in preventative detention. Lead prosecutor Marcela Muñoz asked the judge to do that in an early November hearing because she considered him a flight risk.
The judge probably was swayed because Milanes is the owner of a string of Central Valley casinos and because he also put up property as a bond when he returned to the country.
One lawyer in a message to clients estimated that the trial is eight months away.
Savings Unlimited is one of those high interest operations that collapsed in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States and the subsequent crackdown on international money flows.
Milanes was a competitor of the so-called Brothers operation run by Luis Enrique Villalobos and his brother Oswaldo. Both firms offered up to 3 per cent a month for cash deposits.
Milanes attracted some customers because his operation in Edificio Colón appeared to be more professional. There was a bank-like atmosphere complete with a cashier’s window. By contrast, Enrique Villalobos handed out monthly returns in cash stuffed into envelopes and sometimes threw in a free Bible.
Villalobos refused to say what he was doing with his investors money. Milanes claimed he was investing in casinos.
Judges who convicted Oswaldo of aggravated fraud said the Villalobos operation was a ponzi scheme. There has been no ruling on the character of the Milanes operation.
Milanes vanished in late November 2002 about six weeks after Villalobos suspended operations. Enrique Villalobos still is missing.
The judge’s decision in the Milanes case is the latest twist in what already is a tangled tale. The casino owner was trying to buy off his creditors and has put properties into the name of a trust to benefit the investors.
The case came to a climax when Milanes failed to make cash payments that eventually would have been shared with the creditors.
In October, the judge negotiated a settlement whereby Milanes would pay $578,000, an amount that would have brought some money to the former investors and, of course, the lawyers involved in the case. One of the investors objected, and the judge suspended the negotiations.
Investors lost perhaps as much as $200 million when Milanes closed down 11 years ago. He has said that a former partner took the bulk of the money.
Milanes appears to have had unusual luck with the Poder Judicial. He spent just a night in jail when he returned, the casinos never entered into the settlement deal and the judiciary as well as investor lawyers accepted properties even though they had impediments with the titles.
He is a Cuban American.