San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Financial Superintendent Denies Detective’s Claim

A detective who claims he will return$500 million to hundreds of jilted investorswith the Villalobos Brothers high-interestloan operation may not have begun clearingthe money with Costa Rican finance authoritiesas he recently told The Tico Times.Stephen Waitman said he had broughtin the first of several cash deliveries topay investors and had proven to theSuperintendence of Financial Entities(SUGEF) the money was not illegallyearned by showing it was his own (TT,May 27). He said he plans to payinvestors with his money, then have itreimbursed later by the owners of thenow-defunct loan operation.Superintendent Juan Enrique Muñoz,from SUGEF, the state regulator of financialinstitutions, told The Tico Times hisoffice has not dealt with Waitman, “neitherdirectly nor through a third party,”and has not received any informationrelated to the origin of his money.Luis Enrique Villalobos, former operatorof the allegedly illegal multimillion dollarhigh-interest loan operation, hasbeen a fugitive from Costa Rican justicefor more than two years. As much as $800million of investors’ funds may have disappearedwith him, according to someestimates (TT, March 14, 2003).Waitman, a U.S. citizen who claims hehas tracked down Villalobos and forcedhim to give back investors’ money, boughtadvertisements in The Tico Times in recentweeks offering former investors theirmoney in exchange for a commission. Hepromises to hand over 85% of the value ofan investor’s check after running a copy ofthe check by his check fraud crew for aprocessing fee of either $50 or $100,depending on the check’s date. (Villalobosgave investors checks as a record of theirdeposits, which reportedly ranged from$10,000 to millions of dollars.)So far, however, no one has been paid.Waitman declined to say how muchmoney he has brought into the country sofar, or when he would begin making thepayments.In a phone conversation with The TicoTimes regarding Muñoz’s statement,Waitman said his account manager atBanco Interfín, where he deposited hismoney, told him he did not need to dealwith SUGEF at that time and the bankwould notify him if he needed to justifythe source of his funds at a later date.Interfín representatives declined to comment.Muñoz explained that when a bankdetects a financial operation that appearssuspicious, it alerts SUGEF. If the casewarrants it, SUGEF submits it to theFinancial Analysis Unit of theProsecutor’s Office.Waitman told The Tico Times thisweek he is bed-ridden with pneumoniaand would provide evidence of themoney to The Tico Times when he hasrecovered.

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