COSTA Rican Immigration Police yesterday afternoon captured a man sought by police in New York in connection with the death of a woman whose body was found entombed in a suitcase under a makeshift concrete platform in his New Jersey carriage house, Public Security Ministry officials announced.
Immigration Director Marco Badilla confirmed that the suspect, identified as 44-year-old Dean Faiello, was arrested at Villas Playa Sámara, on the west coast of the NicoyaPeninsula in Guanacaste, on charges of overstaying his three-month tourist visa. He said Faiello entered the country on Sep. 19, 2003.
Authorities located Faiello after he used his credit card, according to a spokesman from the Public Security Ministry. The suspect’s photo also was published in the daily newspapers yesterday.
Badilla said Faiello most likely would be deported to the United States.
“Initially, that is the intention,” he said.
TWO investigators from the New York Police Department (NYPD), working with the International Police (Interpol) office in San José, declined to comment.
Costa Rican Interpol Investigator Paulo Monge said at least four investigators here worked on the case with New York law enforcement officials.
The case has drawn national media attention in the United States. Faiello allegedly ran an unlicensed “skin and laser center,” where authorities believe the victim, 35-year-old financial analyst Maria Cruz, died after visiting him in mid-April 2003 for treatment of a black growth on her tongue.
The victim’s decomposing body was found Feb. 19 in Newark, N.J., after the Essex County, N.J., Prosecutor’s Office obtained a search warrant based on evidence gathered during an investigation conducted by the New York District Attorney’s office, according to area authorities.
The New York Times reported last week that the body was found after an NYPD search for Cruz – who had been reported missing on April 13 of last year – and a search for Faiello by the New York State Attorney General’s Office crossed paths.
IN October 2002, Faiello was charged with three counts of practicing medicine without a license, and was released on $5,000 bail, according to the Attorney General’s Office. He plead guilty in June 2003 and was scheduled to be sentenced for the charges in December 2003, but by that time he was already in Costa Rica, according to immigration records here.
Police believe he continued to practice after being charged. Judy Gagliano of the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office said an autopsy on Cruz’s body has already been performed, although the official cause of death is being withheld pending toxicology results, which could take several weeks.
AN NYPD representative told The New York Post last week that police are “exploring the possibility that she may have died as the result of procedures he performed but was not licensed to perform, including anesthesia.”
Meanwhile, sources here claim Faiello had been living in Costa Rica “like he was on vacation.”
A hotel manager told The Tico Times on condition of anonymity that Faiello had stayed at a hotel in the Central Valley for about a month between September and October of last year.
“He was eating, sitting by the pool…doing nothing all day,” the manager said. The manager said Faiello made no attempt to conceal his identity and was something of a socialite. He came off as intelligent, well educated and friendly, the manager said.
ANOTHER man, who said he became an acquaintance of Faiello’s in Costa Rica, claimed he had dinner several times with the suspect and went to a sizeable party he hosted here.
He said Faiello openly discussed his experience working in cosmetic surgery, claiming he worked as an assistant to doctors at a clinic called SkinOvations – the name of the unlicensed clinic Faiello ran in Manhattan, according to the New York Attorney General’s Office.
The same man said Faiello spoke frequently about opening a hotel in Costa Rica, and that he was in the process of getting SCUBA-certified at a club on the Pacific coast.
But one aspect of his behavior bothered both sources.
“The guy was spending money like it was going out of style,” the acquaintance said.
The hotel manager agreed.
“He didn’t look like a normal guest,” the hotel manager said. “He was alone and spending a lot of money, and he didn’t have a schedule.”
The acquaintance said Faiello had a shaved head, and those who knew him thought he was spending so frivolously because he was “on his last leg.”
“We all thought he had colon cancer or something,” he said.
LEGAL experts consulted by The Tico Times said a number of conditions must be met before an extradition from Costa Rica is possible, the first of which is an arrest warrant for the suspect. Even after an arrest is made, the extradition process can take months.
According to an extradition agreement between the Costa Rica and the United States, the crime for which a person is being pursued in the United States must be a crime here as well. Also, authorities here must receive a guarantee that the suspect’s human rights will not be violated.
In this case, said a spokesman from the Judicial Branch, it would most likely entail a guarantee from U.S. authorities that Faiello would not face the death penalty if he were charged with murder.
Deporting him for immigration violations, however, might not require administrative action on the part of New York law enforcement officials, Badilla said.
THE suspect has at least a five-year history of crime associated with the illegal practice of medicine, New York authorities said.
Sherry Hunter, of the New York District Attorney’s Office, said Faiello was convicted in November 1998 of stealing prescription pads from a doctor he worked for and using them to write prescriptions. He was sentenced in January 1999 to three years of probation and drug rehabilitation treatment, she said.
While running SkinOvations, Faiello claimed to be qualified to perform such procedures as laser hair removal, removal of skin lesions and blood vessels, and injections of anesthesia, according to a statement issued by the New York Attorney General’s office.