Police Arrest Mexican Ringleaders with Alleged Links to Crashed Plane

October 11, 2010

Costa Rican police arrested two Mexicans on Monday they allege are the leaders of a drug ring connected to the Guatemalan plane that crashed Sunday in Costa Rica while carrying 173 kilograms of cocaine.

Security Minister José María Tijerino said Monday at a press conference that the suspects, identified as Rubén Martínez and Elvis Mendoza, were arrested Monday morning at the border with Nicaragua while trying to leave the country at an unauthorized crossing point.
 
According to Tijerino, Mexicans have owned the Guatemalan air taxi company Aeroturismo de América (ATA) for the last six months. ATA owned the plane that crashed just seconds after takeoff from the Tobías Bolaños Airport, just west of San José. The airport is used exclusively by smaller planes.
 
The copilot of the crashed plane, Anibal Monzón, died Monday in a public hospital in the Costa Rican capital. The pilot, identified as Otto Ramírez, remains in “critical but stable condition,” according to the hospital. Both are Guatemalan.
 
The Costa Rican minister explained that this case has exposed a “new model” of drug trafficking, “based at the Tobias Bolaños Airport.”
 
The crashed aircraft was carrying the drugs hidden in fuel compartments in one wing, and authorities believe the weight of the drugs led to the plane crash.

Tijerino said Costa Rica authorities contacted counterparts in Guatemala and Mexico to try to better define the connections between the drug ring and the flight.

The minister added that Costa Rica will take immediate steps to strengthen controls at the Tobias Bolaños Airport.

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