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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Jan. 23, 2017, Vol. 17, No. 16
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Stolen and faked ID documents are evidence in property fraud case
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Investigators say that a trio of individuals accused of property fraud had a great quantity of driver's licenses, passports, identity cédulas, school diplomas and other identification documents.

Prosecutors revealed this as they sought preventative detention against three of the five persons detained Thursday, Two persons who were described as having been held mainly to give statements have been let go.

The Judicial Investigating Organization said that property fraudsters used these fake documents to create personalities who then would serve as buyers and sellers of property.

The judicial agency said that the ring identified foreigners and Costa Ricans who were outside the country and who were not keeping constant track of their properties in the Registro Nacional.

The ring would create fake documents so that someone could pretend to be the real owner in order to make a property transfer to a third party.

One of the men detained Thursday was identified as a recruiter who sought out individuals ready to pretend to be someone else.

In this way, notaries, a type of lawyer, were not involved in this fraud. Instead, they were duped by the fake paperwork, too.

The men still being held have been identified by the last names of Rojas, García and Rivas. A decision on the request for preventative detention had not been available when the courts closed Friday afternoon.

A lot in San José and a house and lot in Heredia are at the heart of the judicial case, which began with a complaint in the early part of last year, judicial workers said.

Property fraud has had an impact on the real estate market in Costa Rica because many foreign buyers are reluctant to invest. A.M. Costa Rica has called on the Corte Supreme de Justicia to create a special property court to litigate such cases quickly. Now such cases are tied up for years.

identificaitions
Judicial Investigating Organization photo
Agents found stolen, altered and faked identification documents during Thursday raids.

Spanish-language newspapers have reported correctly that the majority of those who have property stolen are Costa Ricans. In one case, a former United Nations ambassador for the country found out that the title to a Guanacaste ranch he owned had been transferred without his knowledge.

The crooks frequently target the elderly with the hope that they die before finding out about the fraud. That is when the crooks show up with a fake mortgage or other forms of transfer papers to claim possession.

Those who have been successful in fighting such criminals have been able to show they have been out of the country on the day such papers were supposed to have been signed or that the signature of the dead owner took place well after the funeral.

Even then, victims have noted, there is no guarantee of having the property returned because Costa Rica respects the rights of so-called innocent third parties, that is persons who have purchased in good faith the property from crooks. So crooks need accomplices to serve as buyers and sellers to confuse the title.

Some private firms and the Registro Nacional will keep track of changes in property status and make notifications for a small fee.



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