In the case of people arrested at the time of presenting the false document, they are taken to the Public Ministry to face a quick trial.
- A.M. Costa Rica illustrative photo -

Published Wednesday, March 3, 2021

People using fake covid-19 test could face
up to six years in jail, authorities say

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

People who have been found guilty of giving false laboratory diagnostic tests for covid-19 could receive penalties of one to six years in prison, according to Alejandro Araya Vargas, specialist from the Public Ministry.

In the case of people arrested at the time of presenting the false document, they are taken to the Public Ministry to face a quick trial, known as Flagrante Delicto, for the crime of using a false document.

The Flagrante Delicto or sometimes simply in-flagrante is a legal term used to indicate that a criminal has been caught in the act of committing an offense. The colloquial "caught red-handed" or "caught rapid" are English equivalents.

According to Araya, recently there have been many cases of arrests for presenting fake covid-19 tests, mainly by foreign-born people. Although a few Costa Ricans have also been detained for committing this crime.

In one week, 24 people have been arrested after they presented a false covid-19 test result when they were about to leave the country through the Juan Santamaría International Airport.

Most of the travelers who have presented false documents were detained by the airport police. Officials are now trained to follow strict rules to detect fake documents.

Through coordination with the Ministry of Health and with the laboratories mentioned in the test documents, the police officers verify with the laboratory (mentioned in the document) if the traveler made the test in person.

"We have managed to make police reports extremely fast, with fairly specific content, the full identification of the people and the knowledge of what was the mechanism and how the crime happened," Araya said.

People arrested for the crime of using a false document must face a hearing before the Flagrancy Court. According to the authorities, in most cases, the judge has ordered alternative solutions.

In these cases, these alternatives established by law allow the person to repair the damage caused as a result of the violation, for example with a donation of supplies to a social aid organization.

"This allows people, who have committed this offense, the opportunity to correct their error, but also the option of taking the tests correctly to obtain the result and, in most cases, return to their country of origin" Vargas said.

In many cases, people went to unauthorized places to carry out the tests, without knowing it and therefore the document did not meet the requirements ordered by the Ministry of Health, the expert said.

The authorities call on the public to carry out covid-19 diagnostic tests only in laboratories approved by the Ministry of Health, to avoid committing offenses when they are leaving the country.

Last week, agents from the Judicial Investigation Organization arrested two international travelers at the Juan Santamaría International Airport on suspicion of using a fake covid-19 lab test.

According to the police report, both suspects presented the allegedly false test results as part of the requirements they had to meet to travel.

The first man arrested was a Brazilian citizen, traveling back to his home country, when he showed the medical documents, the officers detected the false laboratory results.

The second man arrested was a Venezuelan citizen traveling to Colombia. He presented officials with the alleged fake documents showing negative lab results from a covid-19 test for two underage international travelers.

The officers at the checkpoint detected the false documents during the verification process, questioning the laboratories mentioned in the documents.

In January, the Ministry of Health authorized private laboratories to carry out covid-19 diagnostic tests for people leaving Costa Rica and needing it as a requirement to enter the other country.

Private laboratories carrying out the diagnostic test are LABIN Lab., Clínica Bíblica Hospital, Páez Lab., San José Lab and Metropolitano Hospital, among others that are part of the Chamber of Health.

According to the Ministry of Tourism, the covid detection tests could cost $100 in the Greater Metropolitan Area, GAM, which is the zone made up of cities in the outskirts of San José such as Alajuela, Heredia and Cartago. In rural zones, the most expensive pricing for the test is $150.

So far, Costa Rican authorities are not requesting tourists for a covid-19 diagnostic test when entering the country. But this decision could change depending on the development of the virus in the country, the ministry said in its statement.

What are some obstacles expats are facing when trying to obtain a covid-19 diagnostic test in Costa Rica? We would like to know your thoughts on this story. Send your comments to


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