Trio detained for stealing from women

Two minors and one adult were detained by police Tuesday night under suspicions that they were targeting women for theft.

The group of three, all males, were identified by a victim as being the individuals who stole her belongings after she bought stuff from a supermarket in the Granadilla district, according to police. The woman made the 911 call and denounced the three.

Police found the three suspects in a vacant lot. They were found with the items stolen from the victim, police said, and she identified those three as the ones who stole from her.

Police believe these three may be the perpetrators in a string of thefts similar to the one they were arrested for. According to some complaints that were filed, a group of three men approached women who were traveling alone, threatened them and stole their belongings before fleeing, according to police.

It is not clear yet if this group is the same group of thieves for the other cases. The adult suspect was transferred to the prosecutor’s office while the minors were given to the juvenile prosecutor.

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Women spiking drinks for theft arrested

Some long-time expats might remember the Viper Lady. She was the individual who used to lure men into her trap in San Jose’s downtown. She would strike up a conversation on some pretext and then invite the victim to a nearby bar where she would engineer a spiked drink.

Sometimes the victims would become so compliant under the effects of a drug that they would provide PIN numbers and credit cards. Other times they just woke up in a strange place with most or all of their clothes missing.

The Viper Lady has not been seen for awhile. Some claim she was a guy in drag. But her technique lives on.

Judicial investigators say they managed to obtain preventative detention against two women who were doing the same thing.

The pair targeted older individuals in Heredia parks and sought domestic employment or some other legitimate reason to go to the victim’s home. There a refreshing drink would put the victim out and at the mercy of robbers.

A third woman was detained briefly and set free because prosecutors could not develop evidence linking her to the crimes. The two women who remain detained face at least three accusations of these mickey finn robberies.

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Canadian man dead after water mishap

A 33-year old Canadian man drowned as a result from a riptide Monday morning.

The Judicial Investigation Organization confirmed the death of Peter Scouras Wednesday after the Canadian tourist drowned at Playa Hermosa. The body was transferred to the Morgue Judicial where an autopsy confirmed the cause of death. Judicial agents said that they have contacted the Canadian embassy for the transfer of the body.

The body remains at the morgue awaiting a family member or spouse to retrieve it.

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Limón band uses Caribbean rhythm and sound to celebrate diversity

The diversity exemplified in Limón will be performed in the rhythm and sound of Limón’s Banda de Conciertos this Sunday evening under the direction of a Costa Rican student.

“The main idea of the concert is to interpret Costa Rican music that is truly related to the Caribbean,” said Alberto Portugués, the deputy director for the Banda de Limón.

“Inspiraciones del Caribe,” as the series of performances is called, will be presented this Sunday at 7 p.m. in the Casa de la Cultura in Limón before coming to Universidad de Costa Rica in San Pedro next Tuesday.

That performance will also begin at 7 p.m. at the Escuelas de Artes Musicales, organizers said.

Coincidentally, Pablo Zamora, the director for the band, is a music major attending Universidad de Costa Rica. The student musician has a focus on traditional Costa Rican music mixed with more contemporary music.

The result of Zamora’s interests is an experiment to try and mix more academic-oriented music with pop, according to the Banda de Limón.

“The purpose of the concert is to highlight the diversity that is in Limón through its music, culture and even gastronomy,” Zamora said, “It is a very beautiful symbol that Costa Rica is a completely diversified land and all this beauty is what one has to learn in order to celebrate.”

Organizers said that both concerts will be free of charge and all are welcome to attend.

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New exhibit at Museo Nacional makes visitor more than a spectator

By Conor Golden
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Museums can be a hit or miss in terms of the exhibits, in the style of presentations, and the attention span of the visitors. The opening of a new exhibit at Museo Nacional seeks to bring history to the present and give visitors a more interactive experience.

The “Historia de Costa Rica, siglos XVI-XXI” exhibit’s architect and designer, Ronald Quesada, seeks to go beyond the traditional artifacts behind glass panes and lack of depth in the experience. English-speakers need not worry. The museum provides bilingual descriptions of the items on display.

This exhibit has at least seven three-dimensional, life-size statues portraying daily life through the centuries of conquest to the modern day. These statues were modeled from the same persons whose activity those statues represent in the exhibit.

The displays combine a traditional catalogue of facts and information about the titans of Costa Rican history and the grand events that shaped the culture as much as the country with the daily life of ordinary people during those times. It is interactive, too with plenty of opportunities for visitors to take selfies or actively engage within the exhibit.

Visitors can sit down in a recreated living room set during the time of the early 1960s complete with reruns of black-and-white Teletica sitcoms playing. Visitors can pose at a park bench with a photographic blowup of the Parque Nacional at the turn of the 19th century. That section even includes contemporary music from the time period.

“As a dual strategy and script, there are experiential bridges between past and present, where people can feel not only as a spectator, but also a protagonist of history,” said Gabriela Villalobos, the historian and curator in charge of the exhibit, “For this reason, the recreation of domestic spaces is fundamental. The museographic and thematic objective is to convert certain spaces or experiences of daily life into passable bridges between yesterday and today for the public.”

The items on display throughout the respective eras of history are a mix of common and extraordinary. A traditional oxen cart used for the boyero parade is found at one spot, while at another includes Costa Rica’s first Olympic medal won by Silvia Poll in 1988.

There is also an emphasis on the native culture of Costa Rica

particularly during the early days of the Costa Rican republic and in the modern day as well.

Since the museum is housed in the site of the old Bellavista barracks famous for tourists because of  the pockmarks from bullets lining the bastions and walls, museum workers actually pulled out some of those bullets encased in the walls and set it up in the section “Auge y crisis del Estado.”

The exhibit completes the visitors’ tour with a mirror engraved with the phrase: “Who builds history today?”

It is a new strategy symbolized in the design of a new exhibit.

The “Historia de Costa Rica, siglos XVI-XXI,” opens as a permanent exhibit today at 9 a.m.

Over 650 items are included in its arsenal. The exhibit itself is divided into five sections: “De la Colonia a la República,” “El país del café,” “Liberalismo y modernidad,” “Conflicto y reforma,” and “Auge y crisis del Estado.”

Total investment in the construction and preparation for it was around $720,000, according to museum officials.

Statues in the "Auge y crisis del Estado" section of new exhibit

Statues in the “Auge y crisis del Estado” section of new exhibit

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2017 Cóbano fiestas continues on coast

cobano022317There is a fiesta again this weekend in Cóbano on the Nicoya peninsula and an arts and crafts fair starting in Santa Ana. The fiesta in Cóbano is aptly called the Festejos Penínsulares Cóbano 2017.

The fiesta runs through Monday with bull fights and bull riding as well as a dance tonight. There are activities for seniors Friday morning, a cattle auction at 1 p.m. with even more bulls Friday night and another dance. There also are dances Saturday, Sunday and Monday nights with a fireworks show Monday at 9 p.m.  There is a tope horse parade Saturday at 2 p.m.

Festival Internacional de Artesanías in Santa Ana is in its 16th year. The location is north of the Catholic church. Most of the exhibits are available for viewing today, but the official inauguration is Friday at 2 p.m. The event attracts craft workers from all over Latin America. A major sponsor is the  Municipalidad de Santa Ana.

The festival runs through March 5 with a number of folkloric and cultural presentations.

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Free internet to be available in San José

A Frente Amplio municipal lawmaker is taking credit for a decision to put free internet in seven San José parks and 22 other areas.

The municipal council approved doing that Tuesday. The lawmaker who proposed the idea is  Diego Miranda. The internet will be provided in parques Nacional, Central, Morazán, La Merced, La Democracia, Garantías Sociales and La Soledad, Miranda said in an annoucement.

Then two locations will be chosen in each of the canton’s 11 districts for additional free access, he said.

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Uber ride service legality still ambiguous

The constitutional court declined to throw out the nation’s law that governs taxis and other public transportation. The issue had been raised by lawmakers in defense of the Uber ride service.

The summary from the Sala IV made very clear that the decision in this case is not a judgment on the constitutionality of the Uber service. The decision was seen as favoring taxi drivers who are licensed under the law in question.

The request to annul the law claimed it created what was tantamount to a monopoly, which is forbidden by the Costa Rican Constitution. The law also was characterized as being contrary to the Central American Free Trade Treaty. The court rejected these arguments, although a few magistrates did not.

Uber has quickly become a major means of transportation using private drivers in their own private vehicles. One estimate has 15,000 persons working as drivers. Casa Presidencial has declined to move forcefully for or against the ride service.

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Public security ministry strikes back

The public security ministry is biting back against allegations that certain officers of the Fuerza Pública are calling for a coup against the government on social media. The police union is now getting involved in the fray.

The Ministerio de Seguridad Pública issued what could be described as a terse warning to certain disgruntled comments by some members of the police force. Ministry officials reiterated their position on the value of the police for preserving the welfare of the State and security of the public.

“The police are a priority in this institution. They always have been and it is sought that they work and grow in a healthy and balanced environment,” a Wednesday statement from the ministry said.

The conflict stems from a change enacted Monday that affected the work schedules for the police forces under the direction of the public security ministry. Other police agencies, such as prison guards, traffic police and municipal police officers are under the jurisdiction of other entities. The Judicial Investigating Organization is part of the judiciary.

The new work schedule, colloquially known as 4×2, calls for police officers to work 12-hour shifts for four days out of the week and then have two full days off work. Some members opposed to this new rule have been pressing for a schedule that would allow officers to work six 12-hour days and then have six days off.

A study conducted by the Departamento de Salud Ocupacional concluded that the policy decreased the amount of available officers on duty. The study also claimed that there was an increase in crime. There were also no negative health consequences.

Based off these results, the ministry remains adamant that this new work schedule does not negatively affect the health and well-being of officers. An announcement came Wednesday that some female officers of the Fuerza Pública stood in solidarity with the ministry’s position. This may come in response to opposition arguments that the new schedule will negatively impact mothers and fathers. The ministry has rejected this argument.

Meanwhile, the Asociación Nacional de Empleados Públicos that represents the police announced it would be holding a demonstration Friday morning in front of the ministry. The announcement Tuesday signals a potential intervention of the union into this issue as union representatives called for off-duty police officers to attend.

The union said that the demonstration is a call for the ministry to comply with the recommendations of the Departamento de Salud Ocupacional regarding work roles and to regulate what it sees as an ambiguity in regulations regarding disabilities. The union also is protesting the lack of application on the upper echelons of the public security ministry of the zero-tolerance policy in investigations of wrongdoing.

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Hidden horrors of household rapes come to light

The hidden horror of household rapes came to light again this week with an allegation that a 12-year old had become pregnant after relations with her father.

Coincidentally, the Poder Judicial also reported actions in similar cases involving minors being violated by those in the same household.

The case of the 12-year old is certain to generate calls for legalized abortion in Costa Rica. Casa Presidencial weighed in on the case Wednesday afternoon urging criminal action in such cases and respect for the dignity of victims.

Wednesday the Poder Judicial reported that the Heredia criminal court gave a 32-year prison sentence to Ricardo Aburto García in a case involving the rape and repeated sexual abuse of a niece, who was between 8 and 10 at the times. The Santa Bárbara de Heredia case took place at the home of the child’s aunt where the man was left alone with the girl.

The Poder Judicial also reported that the criminal court in Pavas had ordered three months of preventative detention against a man with the last names of Solera Matamoros, who faces an allegation of rape involving a stepdaughter. The judiciary said the case stems from 2009 in Santa Ana when the man lived in the same home with the girl, who also was described as being disabled.

The allegation is that the rapes lasted for seven years until the girl’s mother learned of the situation.

There is a steady stream of such cases, but most do not make the newspapers or television news. An exception is when the child ends up pregnant at an early age. A 9-year-old Nicaraguan child made the news when her pregnancy became known in 2003. Investigators detained a neighbor who was later cleared.

The girl continued in the news because her parents took her to their home country of Nicaragua where she received a legal abortion.

Statistics show that more than 1,000 teens between 14 and 16 were listed as rape victims in the last 10 years. Not all of them were victims of relatives or the boyfriends of their mother. Many more cases probably were not reported.

Early pregnancy can have a life-long impact on a woman’s health, medical experts point out.

Local television disclosed the case of the pregnant 12-year old.

Ana Helena Chacón Echeverría, the second vice president, responded Wednesday with her call to treat the case with rigor and not to allow impunity.

Her statement was joined by those from the

There are many implications of early pregnancy

There are many implications of early pregnancy

Patronato Nacional de la Infancia and the Instituto Nacional de las Mujeres.

Alejandra Mora Mora of the latter agency praised the valor of the girl’s mother for reporting the case and breaking the silence that characterizes violence against women.

The statement did not mention abortion, but a lawyer from a human rights organization did. The lawyer, Larissa Arroyo Navarrete, issued a statement on behalf of the Acción Estratégica por los Derechos Humanos and said that abortion would be legal in this case. She based her argument on Costa Rican law that allows abortion when there is danger to the life or health of the woman and no other methods are available.

Others many not agree with the lawyer’s interpretation. The U.N. Human Rights Committee has recommended that Costa Rica permit abortion when the pregnancy is the result of rape, incest or when the unborn child suffers some fatal malformation.

Changing the current law would be highly controversial with the Catholic Church, among other entities, in strong opposition.

The problem of incest is not just a Costa Rican phenomenon, but the many incidents are not mentioned frequently and there are cultural implications. The Poder Judicial maintains an interview room for children in the building occupied by the Judicial Investigating Organization. The room contains shelves full of stuffed animals and plush toys to make a child feel comfortable.

Investigators and social workers are well aware of the extent of the problem. But staffers at the U.S. Embassy appear not to be.

The U.S. government invests substantial sums to fight the specter of underage sex tourism even though there is little proof of that, based on the government’s own statistics

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Certified entrepreneurs ready to face world

Some 122 new entrepreneurs, 110 women and 12 men, have received certificates from the Cartago-based university, Technológico de Costa Rica, and are off  to start or develop their own enterprises.

The university said that the 60-hour entrepreneur course graduated 50 persons in Cartago, 25 in San Carlos and 43 in Limón.

The program was an anti-poverty one supported by the Instituto Mixto de Ayuda Social, the nation’s major financial aid agency.  Its Fideimas program can provide financing for small businesses and also provide technical assistance. Those eligible are women or families in poverty but with a productive activity.

The Instituto Mixto de Ayuda Social also helps small business by setting up regional fairs where products can be sold.

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Central government drafts FOIA decree

The central government has issued a draft of a freedom-of-information decree designed to give more access to official activity.

The public can make comments on the proposed decree through March 7, said Casa Presidencial.

The decree would require government agencies to maintain a webpage with 20 types of detailed information on its functioning. Among other data, the agency must publish on the site salaries and information and costs of any trips made by employees. The agency also must publish a list of any money disbursed as grants, scholarships or similar to any person.

The decree also would require agencies to designate a freedom-of-information officer to respond to complaints.

The decree says that agencies have to respond to public requests for information within 10 days unless the request is very complicated.  In that case, more time is allowed.

The penalty for public employees who do not provide information is vague and based on unstated established administrative sanctions.

Residents who are denied information have as recourse a complaint to the freedom-of-information officer.

The decree says that access to informant is a human right, but it also cites existing privacy legislation that may keep information secret.

The measure stops short of some freedom-of-information legislation that provides criminal penalties for willfully refusing to provide public information. It also stops short of providing a list of all money paid for any purpose by the agency with identification of the recipient.

The decree, the government said, represents the final step in efforts by the  Comisión Nacional de Gobierno Abierto to make access to information quicker and fuller.

The decree is available HERE as is a form to submit comments.

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Officials interested in portable stretcher

An Oregon company showed off a portable device that lets one person move a victim in a rescue operation.

The Judicial Investigating Organization are going to test the device, officials there said Tuesday.

Representatives from Skedco, Inc. of Tuallatin, Oregon, displayed the stretcher, called a sked. The device originally an idea for hunters to tow deer carcasses, according to Bud Calkin, vice president and founder of the business.

The sked itself is a simple piece of polyethylene that forms a cocoon around the person placed in it. The stretcher has ropes to keep the person firmly placed within and, the group claimed, naturally tilts the head area upward to avoid drowning while a person is being carried across water. A simulated presentation of how the stretcher works took around five minutes or less for someone to place a subject in it.

Skedco’s main selling points for its stretcher to the Costa Rican government and other potential buyers emphasizes the portability, the fact it is lightweight, and that it can be used by one person to tow and potentially save someone injured.

Officials said that they want to try out the sked for use in search and rescue operations. At this time, the skeds could be seen in use by judicial agents of the main delegation in San José to test it.

Skedco’s Costa Rican office is based in San Pablo in Heredia. Calkin said sales of his stretcher picked up when the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration established guidelines for rescuing workers from confined spaces.

Since the company was founded back in 1981, Calkin said that the U.S. military has purchased some 300,000 stretchers.

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Crowd of 200 has standoff with government at Corcovado preserve

Almost 200 people gathered outside the limits of Parque Nacional Corcovado Tuesday in an attempt to enter the park despite a standoff with officials.

The majority of these people claim to be associated with the Asociación de Ex Oreros of the Osa Peninsula. Currently, the rules and regulations dictating visitation to the park set a cap of only 120 people allowed in per day.

Officials from the Fuerza Pública, el Área de Conservación Osa representing the parks ministry and Casa Presidencial met with these people and discussed their concerns, according to a report.

Occasionally, police have arrested so-called oreros who seek gold ore on the Osa peninsula.

These are destructive and uncontrolled activities in remote areas. The use of a sluice to extract placer gold from stream beds and nearby sand and gravel can even alter the course of waterways.

Costa Rica always had turned a blind eye to much of this activity because these efforts feed families. The government claims that it will review the existing lists of ex-oreros of the Osa Peninsula. It also said it aims to pass a bill currently in the legislature that proposes providing compensation to the miners and their families in Corcovado and Piedras Blancas.

The discussion seemed to have avoided any problems, according to the parks ministry.

All the protesters left the area peacefully and voluntarily, officials said.

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Central American Free Trade Agreement will face Trump scrutiny

The Donald Trump administration will be taking a close look at all trade agreements, the White House press secretary said Tuesday.

That confirmed what most in Costa Rica already knew: That the Central American Free Trade Agreement would undergo study.

The press secretary, Sean Spicer, made the comments after being asked about the White House announcement last month that the United States would withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Spicer responded by saying that all trade agreements would be studied to see if they conform to Donald Trump’s America First policy. The trade agreement that caused so much controversy here when it was proposed did not rate a mention.

The agreement, known as CAFTA, won approval here in an October 2007 referendum with just 51.56 percent of the voters in favor. The requirements mandated by the pact profoundly changed Costa Rica society.

For example, the government was required to open up the insurance and telecom markets. That created space for private insurers and the private but regulated mobil telephone companies.

The agreement also formalized an arbitration system that provides investors a way to appeal what they consider to be

mistreatment by Costa Rican officialdom.

Appeals already have challenged inconsistencies in governmental policies, such as creating a national park and not expropriating the private land within.

A case being heard now challenged the freezing of a real estate project even though approvals had been given.

Opposition to the free trade agreement was fueled by opposition to the United States and its economic system. There also was opposition from public employee unions fearing their state monopolies would be dismantled by the pact.

The pact helped the country’s agricultural sector, but U.S. officials are likely to look closely at bottlenecks in the customs service and the treatment of U.S. products shipped here.

The 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership was promoted by former U.S. president Barack Obama. The treaty had not received the required approval by the U.S. Congress.

Trump had railed during the campaign about unfair treatment of the United States in existing trade agreements. Mentioned most of the time was the North American Free Trade Agreement, which is being defended strongly by México.

In fact, most of Trump’s rhetoric was directed at the U.S. neighbor to the south. The business community there fears a heavy-handed approach to import tariffs by the Trump administration.

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Precise mapping of state to begin March

The government is embarking on a major effort to precisely map the country.

At first, a team of 20 technicians will map the 25,000 square kilometers that are adjacent to the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean. Then they will map the rest.

The project is more than establishing geographical boundaries. An announcement from Casa Presidencial said that the study would include the morphology of the soil so that those in agriculture would be able to profit by knowing where the best land is.

In fact, the project involves employees of  the Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganadería. The 20 workers will be trained by the Instituto Nacional de Innovación y Transferencia en Tecnología Agropecuaria.

A November 2014 report by the Contraloría General de la República was the stimulus for the work.  The report noted many conflicts by zoning maps of the same cantons held by different agencies.

The announcement Tuesday said the mapping would provide a basis for municipalities to create or update its zoning maps or planes reguladores. Such plans are required for development.

The initial interest is in the coastal areas where the Zona Marítimo Terrestre or maritime zone is located. This is land up to 200 meters from mean high tide that is owned by the state. Some development is allowed with concessions.

The mapping is supposed to begin in March, and the product, maps at a scale of 1 to 50,000, will be published in the Diario La Gaceta official newspaper and made available to local governments.

The technicians will be using techniques established by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The report by the Contraloría noted that many municipalities have not yet created zoning plans. Some only have done so for the coastal zone. The central government has ordered the municipalities to do so, but the local governments complained that the order was not followed up by resources.

The Casa Presidencial announcement noted that the resulting maps would be of benefit for the Instituto Geográfico Nacional, the Sistema Nacional de Áreas de Conservación and other government agencies.

Right now many of the boundaries of public land are unclear and existing maps sometimes overlap. The maps also would be helpful in issuing construction permits because they would specify the types of soil, Casa Presidencial noted.

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Police detain man for attacking a child

Police detained a 25-year old man after he apparently attacked a 6-year old girl with a knife.

This man apparently arrived late Monday night to the house of the victim’s family with a bottle of liquor inviting them to drink, according to a report. The adults rejected the offer and the man ran up to the room where the child was sleeping.

The victim’s father pursued the man and struggled with him until he disarmed the subject and hit him over the head with the back of a hatchet, according to police.

Officers of the Fuerza Pública arrived Tuesday morning and detained the suspect. Police said officers confiscated two knives and a firearm. One of the knives had bloodstains, according to police.

The girl was evacuated to the hospital in Upala sustaining injuries to her neck and abdomen, according to a report. She is in stable condition, police said.

The suspect remains in police custody and will be remanded to the prosecutor’s office following his recovery from what police are calling a severe head injury.

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Suspect accused of sexual assault posed as a modeling agent, police officials say

Police in Desamparados captured a man accused of sexually assaulting women who is alleged to have committed those crimes by posing as a modeling agent.

According to police, the man contacted women through Facebook claiming to head a modeling agency. Two women, one minor and one adult, went to the suspect’s house Monday night to sign a contract as models, a report said.

When they arrived at the house, the suspect apparently asked both to pose in their underwear. To convince them, the suspect apparently said that the victims needed to rehearse before the photographer would arrive, officials said.

The victims told authorities that during this casting, the suspect touched their intimate parts and kissed them, all without consent.

The adult woman fled from the house and notified police of the situation. Officers arrived and detained the man.

The second circuit court in San José condemned the man to 15 days of preventive detention as a suspect charged with recruiting young women for jobs as models and then sexually abusing them, the Poder Judicial said.

The motion committed Tuesday afternoon will be effective until March 12, officials said.

Officials also noted the possibility of other victims as other documentation masking as real contracts were found at the suspect’s house during the police action.

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