Costa Rica’s Immigration Police arrested a primary suspect in a human trafficking operation to take Ticos to the U.S., the Immigration Administration reported in a news release.
Officers arrested the man, whose last names are Barboza Fallas, on Wednesday morning during a raid in the southern San José canton of Pérez Zeledón.
The police investigation found that Barboza led migrants through three different land routes, or by a combination of air, sea and land trips. He charged up to $10,000 per person; some of the migrants were even forced to mortgage properties or cars to cover the fee.
During Wednesday’s raid, police officers also seized five Costa Rican passports, property plans and receipts with descriptions suggesting the sale of properties or cars. Immigration officials reported that Barboza is also linked to the smuggling of other Ticos using traditional routes through Central America and Mexico.
The Immigration Police began the investigation following the April 2015 disappearance of three Ticos from Pérez Zeledón, in Caribbean waters. Relatives said at the time that the three missing Ticos had paid Barboza to take them to Miami via Panama and Barbados.
Rafael Arturo Garbanzo Cascante, his wife Edith Alfaro Porras, and a friend of the couple, Eliécer Ruiz Ureña, were reported missing by the International Police on international waters between the Bahamas and Miami on April 11, 2015. Luis Sánchez, another Costa Rican who was also on the boat that day, was rescued by a vessel a few hours later and sent back to Costa Rica.
He said the boat started leaking and all passengers opted to jump into the water, using plastic containers and other objects as floatation devices. He said he could see the other Tico passengers in the water for a while but soon lost sight of them.
During the raid on Wednesday, officers found an invoice dated March 11, 2015 stating: “I received $5,000 from Arturo Garbanzo for travel tickets.”
The Prosecutors’ Office said in a news release that Barboza will now face charges for human trafficking. If convicted, he could serve a prison sentence between six and ten years.