Costa Rican Immigration Police last week arrested a U.S. citizen wanted on international kidnapping charges and turned over her toddler son to the child’s father.
Mary Anginette McBeth, a 37-year-old real estate agent from Surfside, Florida, has been living in Costa Rica since September 2007 and going by the name Nova Johnson.
She was arrested Nov. 21 by Immigration Police in the Pacific beach community of Montezuma, on the southern tip of the NicoyaPeninsula.
McBeth, who is being held in the TemporaryDetentionCenter for Foreigners in San José, told The Tico Times early this week she had not been informed of any charges against her, and was not told what happened to her child.
“They have not told me anything about my child in three days. … I do not know his whereabouts,” McBeth said.
Immigration spokeswoman Heidy Bonilla has since said McBeth is facing deportation for overstaying her tourist visa and using the identity of a Nicaraguan woman. McBeth’s son has both a U.S. passport in his name and a Nicaraguan passport under another name, she added.
According to Immigration Police and the Child Welfare Office, known as PANI, the 2- year-old child, a U.S. citizen named Amedeo Cuomo, is in the custody of his father, Luigi Cuomo, 50, of Italy, and is still in Costa Rica.
The Tico Times has been unable to reach the boy’s father. The Italian Embassy would not disclose any information about the father or son’s whereabouts.
McBeth has filed a habeus corpus appeal with the Supreme Court alleging her rights were violated. PANI spokeswoman Fanny Cordero said a legal restriction currently prohibits the child from leaving the country.
The boy was taken from his mother after she was detained Nov. 21 and turned over to his father by Immigration Police in the presence of a PANI official, Cordero said. She added that court rulings in Florida’s Miami-DadeCounty and in Germany declare Luigi Cuomo the child’s legal custodian.
McBeth, who spoke exclusively with The Tico Times Monday from the Immigration foreigners’ detention center, said she was on her annual visit last spring to see her other son, 17, who lives in Heidelberg, Germany, when Cuomo – a furniture importer originally from Naples, Italy, last living in Coconut Grove, Florida – filed international kidnapping charges against her. McBeth said she filed for divorce against Cuomo, which he contested, in a Florida court in July 2006.
According to the U.S. National Center for Missing & Exploited Children Web site, an FBI warrant was issued against McBeth for the alleged abduction of her son, and the two have been missing since May 2007.
McBeth’s lawyer, Jorge Rojas, said there had been no due legal process in Costa Rica where McBeth had been represented, and no judge had authorized that the child be taken from her and given to the father.
“The minor cannot be turned over in an administrative or government decision; it has to be a decision by a judge,” Rojas said.
The Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court is currently reviewing McBeth’s appeal and has ordered that she not be taken out of Costa Rican territory unless she goes of her own free will.
The U.S. Embassy declined to say if an extradition request had been filed.
Francisco Castaing, head of Immigration Police in San José, said Luigi Cuomo and a consul from the Italian Embassy came to him Nov. 20, presenting information that McBeth was wanted on international kidnapping charges by U.S. and German authorities.
Castaing confirmed that three officials detained McBeth in Montezuma the next day and that the child was handed over to his father later that afternoon.
McBeth said Immigration officials, the same ones who arrested her in Montezuma, came to the center Monday to see her and “tried to forcibly take me to the U.S. Consulate. … They’re trying to forcibly extradite me without due process.”
McBeth said a female Immigration official told her they needed another fingerprint, that there was some anomaly with her passport.
“What I believe is happening is they were trying to just get me out of the country before I could talk with (the news media),” she said.
U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Melissa Martinez confirmed that a vice consul visited McBeth in the center per standard procedure.
McBeth said her phone access has been restricted. Center employees said the phone on the women’s side of the prison is out of operation, but said all detainees have equal access to the phone and that McBeth received four calls on Monday.
McBeth is the third U.S. woman this year who has been detained on international kidnapping charges after seeking refuge in Costa Rica.
The Public Security Ministry turned down a U.S. extradition request this summer for Chere Lyn Tomayko. The Fort Worth, Texas, woman, who married a Tico after moving to Costa Rica, was granted residency and kept her children with her.
The Puntarenas Criminal Court turned down a U.S. extradition request for Nicole Kater, of Humboldt, California, in September, a decision the U.S. Embassy has appealed. Immigration has turned down Kater’s residency application.
Tomayko and Kater claimed spousal abuse – and failure by the U.S. legal system to protect them – but Tomayko is the only one known to have filed charges against her husband.