Despite conviction, Milanes case is far from over

Savings Unlimited investors have won what one called a  Pyrrhic victory  with the conviction of Luis Milanes.

“A Pyrrhic victory is a victory that inflicts such a devastating toll on the victor that it is tantamount to defeat,” the investor added in an email, quoting a Web site definition.

He was referring to the drawn out fraud case that began in November 2002 when Milanes closed his high-interest operation and fled the country.

In the decision Thursday a San José criminal court panel gave Milanes a bit more than 15 years in prison and sentenced Michael González, the office manager, to six years. José Milanes, the brother of Luis, was not convicted.

Investors and some court officials consider Milanes a flight risk, and the judicial panel ordered that he be held in preventative detention until a  written sentence is issued in January.

Most investors are aware that the case is not over. An appeal is certain, and the chances that the ailing Milanes spends Christmas in prison are slim.

Lawyers are likely to cite his health and the holidays in a bid to have him freed.

Milanes seems to have divested himself of his assets over the  last few years. That includes property the he posted as compensation for some of his investors in a conciliation deal.

At one time he owned a string of casinos and other ventures.

Milanes was missing after he closed his borrowing operation until he returned in June 2009. The criminal case has been going on since.

José Pablo Fernández of Global Trust Firm, S.A. quickly sent out an email to those in the conciliation deal noted that the agreement was not part of the criminal case. He said that a sale might come soon of the Hotel Europa downtown. That is part of the property that Milanes signed over as part of the agreement. The trustee firm has been trying to sell the hotel property for years, but there have been many complications.

The investors who are involved in the agreement are expected to receive money from the hotel sale, although there are substantial maintenance and legal costs that continue.

There is some question if investors will receive any money as a result of the Milanes conviction. He says that the bulk of the funds from Savings Unlimited were taken by an associate who absconded to Europe.

In addition, the court is considering money laundering allegations that may show up in the final verdict. Such a conviction, if upheld, would channel any money to the government.

González would probably serve less than three years if the conviction is upheld. Plus he gets a substantial discount for the time he served in preventative detention several years ago and the time he serves now in house arrest.

Savings Unlimited was one of those high-interest operations that flourished here at the turn of the century. Depositors received up to 3 percent a month return on their investments. Milanes claimed the money was being invested in casinos.

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