Fugitives in Costa Rica

Two to three times a year we pick up the paper or read online that another fugitive has been captured in Costa Rica.  The last bad guy was picked up in Playa Garza last month.  This one was a convicted child molester.

Tom Noel Mastin is the latest of several fugitives that have made their home in Costa Rica and gone unnoticed for years before being captured.  He had been in the country since 1999. Officials deported him in 2007 into the custody of Florida law enforcement.

On February 21, 2008 he entered a plea deal in Florida and was placed under house arrest.  Amazingly, he was seen again in Playa Garza only 7 days later after sneaking back into the country.  Mastin was deported this past Monday for the SECOND time!

Several questions come to mind when going over this recurring problem we seem to have in Costa Rica;  With the new laws in place in the US one can no longer travel outside of the US without a passport but don’t they take that away from you when you become a convicted felon?  If Mastin didn’t have a passport, how did he get out of the US?

When you enter Costa Rica legally, your passport is scanned and sirens, bells and whistles start going off if you are a convicted felon or have been kicked out of the country. CR does not let you back in for 10 years if you do something worthy of getting kicked out ie., working under a tourist, pensionado or rentista visa just to name a couple.  Being carried away by US law enforcement means that you are never allowed back into the country.

Hundreds of Nicaraguans “sneak” into the country every year but the idea of a 70 year old man (Mastin) coming in the way that these others do is mind boggling.  Had it not been for some good Samaritans reporting Mastin in the country, he could have lived his life out in Costa Rica and the police nor immigration would have ever known.

Guardian Angels CR received a call last year asking what the extradition laws were in Costa Rica.  We promptly told the caller that if they were running from the police and found in Costa Rica they would spend time in the Costa Rican jail before being sent back to the US.   They didn’t request our relocation assistance after that response. :)

I feel that Costa Rica has become a sort of haven for criminals from many countries because of the non-existent police presence and immigration laws not being enforced in the outlying areas.

If you get robbed or your home gets broken into it is your responsibility to go down to the central police headquarters and file a report.  No one comes to your home to investigate or take your complaint so many crimes go unreported and many fugitives are still running around free.

I suppose other countries in Latin America have similar problems, however living in Costa Rica, all I care about is the safety of my children and my family in Costa Rica.

Costa Rica needs to enforce their immigration laws, do something about border control and catch the bad guys before they catch us at a vulnerable moment.  Sounds like some of the same complaints I hear about the United States.

where the police force is basically non-existent.

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