Two transit officials from Jaco are in police custody and one other under investigation by officials of Judicial Investigative Police for complicity in an attempt to extort money from a group of tourists on vacation in Costa Rica. According to news reports the three officers stopped the vehicle at a roadside check point near the beach town of Jaco on Wednesday night and administered a breathalyzer test for alcohol.
When two alcohol tests came up negative an officer informed the driver that he would issue a ticket for attempting to evade the checkpoint unless he received a cash payment of $1000. The officer reduced the demand to $600 when the driver suggested he couldn’t pay, but finally accepted just $100.
The group of tourists included the driver of the car, retired firefighter from Florida Frank Straub, his wife Joan, and two radiologists from New York, Carly Abromowits and Adriana Pecorilla.
The Straubs chose Costa Rica as their vacation destination to celebrate their wedding anniversary and stayed at the Marriot Los Sueños Hotel on Playa Herradura.
On the Thursday the group reported the crime to officials of the Judicial Investigative Police (OIJ).
News reports indicate that two transit officials are in police custody and were positively identified by witnesses. A third officer remains under formal investigation.
Officials from the Garabito OIJ police delegation and prosecutors office accelerated the investigation, capture and official identification of the officers in order to accommodate the travel plans of the tourists. The group testified before a criminal court judge, prosecutors, and defense attorneys for the accused at 5:45am, Friday morning before boarding flights home to the United States.
Increased monetary demands on the part of corrupt transit officials has been a fear of Costa Ricans and expatriates alike ever since the government passed a New Transit Law that calls for higher fines and stiffer penalties.
Had Frank Straub actually been ticked by transit police the costs would have been high as the threatened charge were relatively serious and he was likely driving a rental vehicle. The rental company would have passed these fines along with other potential fees onto his credit card.
Tourists are especially vulnerable to corrupt transit police because they often do not speak Spanish, are unfamiliar with the legal system, and after all are on vacation. While investigators did expedite the process the entire experience likely had the effect of ruining several days of vacation.
The Straub case is also unique in that transit police couldn’t actually find any real offense. False charges were invented in an attempt to extort a large cash payment from a group of tourists. Jaco in particular has a bad reputation for police corruption and violence as a result of the drug culture.
Given the amount of drinking that goes on at the beach party town it’s apparent these transit cops just got greedy.
The chances of actually finding someone driving under the influence and willing to pay a bribe would seem high.
Of course we will never know the entire story. In some Latin American countries it’s common for police to pay commissions to their superiors in order to get prime postings where they can extort tourists.
Perhaps these cops in Jaco just became frustrated that they couldn’t make the quota for their police bosses.
One thing is for certain, operating an automobile in Costa Rica is more expensive than ever.
Filed Under: Local News