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Thursday, October 23 2014 @ 01:51 PM EDT

Welcome to Panama-Guide.com

Panama Guide is the #1 English Language web site about the Republic of Panama. There are currently 24,074 articles in our ever-expanding database and we update daily so check back often. More than 7,000 people visit Panama-Guide.com every day to follow current events and to use the other resources available. We provide fresh English language Panama news daily, as well as information about all of the other things you need to know if you plan to visit or live here. We focus on those topics and issues which are of greatest importance to the English speaking expatriate community. And if you can't find what you need to know, we take requests. Welcome aboard, and tell your friends.

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Vista man accused of killing girlfriend in Panama appears in court

Expat Tales By Marcella Lee, Anchor/Reporter SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - A federal court hearing for a Vista man accused of murder took place Wednesday in downtown San Diego.

Investigators say Brian Brimager dismembered his girlfriend Yvonne Baldelli's body in Panama, where they were living in 2011, then concocted an elaborate scheme to cover up her death.

Brimager was in court to discuss the health of a key witness in the case – Yvonne's sister Michelle Valenzuela.

"My mom has been such a champion for Yvonne, she loved her little sister so much," daughter Lauren Beyer said.

Beyer's mother Michelle is battling stage IV breast cancer, which has spread to her bones, so prosecutors are requesting to depose her.

"We want her deposition taken so no matter what happens, she is able to tell her testimony whenever the trial begins," Beyer said.

Prosecutors allege Brimager sent emails to Yvonne's family members, posing as Yvonne, so they would believe she was still alive.

"She was one of the main people that he was in contact with when he was pretending to be my aunt Yvonne, and so it's very important that my mom is able to tell both the communications and his behavior towards her and the family during that whole time when we were looking for her," Beyer said.

Yvonne's family traveled to Panama to find her, after sensing something just wasn't right. Then in 2013, investigators in Panama discovered skeletal remains in a military style duffel bag that matched Yvonne's DNA. Brimager was arrested on obstruction of justice charges, and faces murder charges in Panama.

"We're ready, we're ready for this chapter in our lives to end. We're ready for him to go to prison to do his time, and to leave us alone with our grief and our memories. We want this over," Beyer said.

At Wednesday's court hearing, Judge Barry Moskowitz cleared the courtroom to protect the confidentially of the breast cancer patient, whose health record would be discussed. The rest of the hearing took place in closed session, so no one knows at this point, what was decided, or if prosecutors will be allowed to take the deposition.

CBS News 8 did see Brimager's new wife at the hearing Wednesday, who had no comment.

You can watch more about Yvonne Baldelli's disappearance on a new episode of "48 Hours" on Saturday, November 15 at 10 p. m. here on CBS 8.

Editor's Comment: I just want to express my continued support for each and every member of Yvonne's family, as well as all of her friends, with a special acknowledgement and recognition of her sister's strength - as she fights several battles simultaneously.

It's going to take a very long time for these legal battles to work their way through the court system - but the evidence against Brian Brimager is overwhelming. But there's one element of this whole thing that I simply cannot understand. Why is the father of Brimager's new wife - the woman he married after he murdered Yvonne Baldelli and returned to the United States - paying the bills for his legal defense? Doesn't he understand this man murdered another man's daughter? As a father myself, there's no way in hell I would ever put myself in a position of "solidarity" with a murderer. Rather, I would reach out to and support Yvonne's father, and help him in any way I could. Daddy's little girl getting what she wants? Even if it's a legal team for a guy who murdered and butchered another man's daughter? Until the day I die, I will never (ever) understand this one...

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Supreme Court Judge Moncada Luna Removed From Office, Placed Under House Arrest

CorruptionAlejandro Moncada Luna, who was appointed as a judge of the Supreme Court in 2010 by then President Ricardo Martinelli, has been suspended from office and placed under house arrest while he is being investigated for alleged offenses of unjust enrichment, money laundering, the forgery of public documents, and corruption of public officials. (more)

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One Of The Moscoso Shooters Captured At Tocumen - Attempting To Flee Panama

Crime & PunishmentSecurity minister Rodolfo Aguilera spoke this morning through a phone interview about the event which occurred last night at the residence of the former president Mireya Moscoso. (more)

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Exchange Of Gunfire At Moscoso's House Leaves Two Injured

Crime & PunishmentThere was a confrontation between members of the Institutional Protection Service (SPI) guarding the residence of former president Mireya Moscoso on Thursday afternoon. (more)

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Supreme Court Decides Against Moncada Luna

CorruptionLast night the full body of Panama's Supreme Court unanimously rejected two actions taken by lawyers defending Supreme Court judge Judge Alejandro Moncada Luna, who is being processed by the National Assembly for unjustified enrichment. (more)

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Former La Prensa Officials Named As Panama's Ambassadors

Panama NewsThe independence of Panama's "free daily" (newspaper) has remained entrenched in the government of Juan Carlos Varela. (more)

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Panama's Public Debt Rises To $18.39 Billion

Money MattersPanama's public debt was $18.39 billion at the close of September 2014, an increase of 15.8% compared to $15.88 billion from the same time last year. (more)

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Panama Can Now Test Patients For Ebola

HealthcareNestor Sosa, the Director of the Gorgas Memorial Institute, announced they have received the necessary reactive agents and tools required in order to perform the rigorous tests to determine if a person presenting symptoms is infected with the Ebola virus. (more)

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Lawmaker Falls Dead Of A Stroke - While Questioning Witnesses in Moncada Luna Trial

CorruptionThe hearings being held on the floor of the National Assembly into the charges against Supreme Court judge Moncada Luna have claimed their first fatality. (more)

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Cuban Immigrants Flooding Into Panama - On Their Way To The US

Panama NewsThe uncontrolled entry of Cubans who are coming into Panama from Colombia has prompted the border authorities in the province of the Darien to request prompt action by the National Government, through the Panamanian Foreign Ministry. (more)

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Panama Guide Will Appear on CBS 48 Hours (Again)

Expat Tales By Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com - CBS 48 Hours will air their program on the murder of a American woman in Bocas del Toro, Panama on Saturday night, October 25th 2014. Mark your calendars.

(Update: I was recently informed that CBS has decided to move the program air date back to Saturday, 15 November. This will be "sweeps week" for them, statistics of viewership used to determine advertising pricing for the program. So, if this program rates well, then CBS can charge their customers more to advertise during 48 Hours programming. Anyway, change your calendar to 15 November.)

The former marine Brian Brimager killed his girlfriend Yvonne Baldelli in late 2011. The ongoing investigation has revealed he dismembered her body, stuffed it into his "military style" backpack, and threw it into the jungle on Isla Carenero in Bocas del Toro, Panama - where they were living - and then began to attempt to enact an elaborate scheme to cover up his crime. Yvonne's body was not discovered until almost two years after the murder.

As you probably know, I've been involved in the investigation since I was first contacted by her family members in February 2012. Baldelli went missing in late 2011, and shortly thereafter her friends and family started looking for clues in Panama.

Initially there was some hesitation between the family members, because they were told by the US Embassy in Panama "whatever you do, don't contact Don Winner from Panama Guide." And why in the name of hell would they say something like that to the family of a missing person in Panama? Because I had made them look bad on several previous cases. The FBI in Panama quite simply failed to do their jobs - and once I got involved then the ball got rolling - and quickly. Wild Bill, his partner in crime Laura Michelle Reese, Javier Martin - three serial killers who are now in prison and who would have probably gotten away with their crimes had I not gotten involved. Not blowing my own horn, just facts.

One of Yvonne Baldelli's sisters said "screw it - if this guy can make things happen, I'm calling him." After awhile the rest of the family members came around. They figured there was nothing to lose. I promised them I would not publish a word until the primary suspect - Yvonne Baldelli's boyfriend Brian Brimager - was behind bars.

Truthfully, I didn't do much to help push this case forward. I do know that after I got involved then all of a sudden the FBI deployed search divers to Bocas del Toro in Panama to scour the ocean floor near the building where Yvonne Baldelli was murdered, looking for evidence. The US government and prosecutors in San Diego got more active in their efforts to investigate and prosecute the case. Maybe I played a very small role in somehow pushing that ball a little, to get it rolling all that much faster.

But whatever - the bad guy is now behind bars and he will be there for a long time. Nothing can bring Yvonne back, but at the very least her family will see justice done. This upcoming CBS 48 Hours program will document the events of the past two years, as only they can. Don't miss it when it airs at 10:00 pm EST.

Copyright 2014 Panama-Guide.com

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Panama Threatens Colombia With Retaliation

Panama NewsThe Government of Panama gave the government of Colombia seven days to remove them from a list of "tax havens" and to start a dialog on the issue on an "equal footing." (more)

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Prosecutor Locks Down Controversial Moncada Luna Properties

CorruptionThe PRD National Assembly Deputy Pedro Miguel Gonzalez - who is acting as the prosecutor in the proceedings against Supreme Court judge Alejandro Moncada Luna - has issued an order to the Public Registry to place a "provisional seizure" on the two properties worth more than $1.7 million dollars in Panama City, involved in a corruption scandal and investigation. (more)

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National Assembly Names Prosecutor and Judges To Go After Supreme Court Judge Moncada Luna

CorruptionThe situation for Supreme Court judge Alejandro Moncada Luna for alleged unjust enrichment was clarified yesterday: The Credentials Committee of the National Assembly admitted the complaint filed against him, appointed judges to hear the case, and later in the afternoon they appointed a prosecutor. (more)

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DGI Investigating Supreme Court Judge For Unjustified Enrichment And Failure To Pay Income Taxes

CorruptionThe future of Judge Alejandro Moncada Luna gets more complicated every day. (more)

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US State Department's John Feeley Visting Panama

Panama NewsThe Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs John Feeley begins a two-day visit to Panama today, where he will sign a security agreement and meet with the country's president, Juan Carlos Varela. (more)

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Corrupt Supreme Court Judge Moncada Luna Also Bought A Million Dollar Beach House in Buenaventura

CorruptionThe scandal surrounding Supreme Court judge Alejandro Moncada Luna may reach new heights, after his colleague Harry Diaz said he also purchased a beach house in Buenaventura, an exclusive development along Panama's Pacific coast. (more)

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California Man Appears in Houston on Fraud Charges

Expat TalesHOUSTON – Dean Lester Springer Sr., 54, of Pala Desert, Calif., has surrendered to federal authorities to face charges in connection with his sale of shipping containers for Intermodal Wealth Inc. and World Container, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson.

Springer is charged with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, conspiracy to launder funds and securities fraud. The superseding indictment, returned Oct. 1, 2014, also names co-defendant John Patrick Acord, 71, formerly of Magnolia. Springer made his initial appearance today and was permitted release upon posting bond, while Acord remains in custody.

The defendants allegedly operated a Ponzi scheme through their company called Intermodal Wealth. The company allegedly promised 13-16% per year guaranteed returns for investors who purchased shipping containers from the company. Investors would purchase the containers and the company was supposed to then lease them to others to generate income, according to the charges. However, Intermodal actually owned very few containers and none were leased.

To continue the scheme, the defendants allegedly provided investors with some monies, but these were generated through new investors rather than from actually leasing the containers.

The Texas State Securities Board eventually obtained an injunction against the defendants from operating the company due to the Ponzi scheme nature of the business and for not disclosing relevant court filings and judgments to investors.

According to the indictment, Springer began as a salesman for Intermodal. Following a cease and desist order against Intermodal, Springer then allegedly formed his own company called World Container in an effort to continue under the same business model. The indictment accuses Springer of misleading investors by reporting that World Container was not associated with Intermodal Wealth. He also allegedly misled investors by stating World Container was his company and that he would use their money to purchase shipping containers and lease them on their behalf. According to the indictment, Springer actually sent the investors’ money to Jones and Acord in Panama and was paid a commission for the sale.

The indictment also alleges that Springer failed to disclose material facts to investors in the sale of the securities as required under federal law.

The total loss in relation to this scheme is estimated at approximately $10 million.

If convicted, Springer and Acord face up to 20 years imprisonment and a fine of up to $500,000 or twice the value of the funds laundered.

Steven Patrick Jones, 50, formerly of Kingwood, was also charged in relation to this scheme. He has already pleaded guilty and is set for sentencing Dec. 18, 2014.

U.S. Postal Inspection Service investigated the case with the assistance of the Texas State Securities Board and Houston Police Department Auto Theft Task Force. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Hileman.

Editor's Comment: I had one source who told me John Patrick Acord had been arrested in Panama, but since there there was no follow-up reporting by US media. Therefore, I suspect my source was either wrong, misinformed, lying to me, or just yanking my chain. So therefore, Acord is probably still a fugitive hiding from justice in Panama.

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Moncada Luna Offers Inconsistent Explainations

CorruptionThe Supreme Court judge Alejandro Moncada Luna gave inconsistent explanations on Wednesday to the newspaper Panama America, owned by the former president Ricardo Martinelli, about how he purchased two apartments for $1,724,200. (more)

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Pilots fight Panama Canal Authority over expansion

Canal ExpansionOfficials in charge of expanding the canal say Gaillard Cut can handle two post-panamaxes side-by-side but the pilots disagree

When expansion of the Panama Canal is complete, a battalion of local pilots will guide post-panamax vessels through the waterway’s new locks and widened channels.

But the leader of the union representing those 270 pilots tells TradeWinds that its members are being frozen out of discussions over navigation procedures for the widened canal, even though they will be on the frontline of ensuring larger vessels make it through without casualty.

Panama Canal Pilots’ Association president Rainero Salas says the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) is imposing unsafe navigation procedures without the technical endorsement of the pilots.

And the pilots say the ACP is deviating from an expansion proposal presented in 2006 and disregarding studies on how vessels will transit the canal’s narrowest channels, while replacing the original navigation plan with one that is “irresponsible” and “reckless”.

However, in a statement provided to TradeWinds, the ACP said it recognises its workforce as its most valuable resource.

“Decisions made by the Panama Canal Administration regarding the operation of the expanded Canal are not made arbitrarily. They take into consideration the very valuable opinion of highly experienced workforce,” the agency said.

And it says negotiations should take place at the bargaining table as part of efforts to strike a new deal covering the 2,150 of its employees that are unionised.

Salas says the pilots want the ACP to start from scratch on developing navigational procedures, clawing back mandates and launching a more inclusive dialogue.

And the union leader believes the pilots will win in the end.

It is not clear how the war of words will play out as the delayed expansion project continues toward completion, which is currently scheduled for late 2016. By law, the pilots cannot go on strike but Salas says they have the discretion to refuse work they consider unsafe and to request, for example, additional tug support.

Salas acknowledges the canal could suffer slowdowns in transits if the two sides do not come to an agreement on operations.

“It’s not a threat. It’s just a fact. It can only be in the best interest of the canal that [we] do this carefully,” he said.

As an example of navigational procedures that the pilots question, Salas points to the ACP’s plans for navigation in the Culebra Cut, also known as the Gaillard Cut. It is the narrowest portion of the canal, buttressed in some parts by sheer rock walls.

The union leader says the ACP has issued notices to the pilots that post-panamax vessels of 49 metres in beam will be able to “meet” in the cut with the support of two tugs each, even though prior studies advise that the width accommodates only a single post-panamax ship safely. He alleges that there are no new hydrodynamic studies to support the change.

“This is not right. This is not responsible,” he said.

The ACP, however, says widening the cut to 218 metres will safely accommodate two post-panamax ships side-by-side.

Salas says the decision made years ago to build locks that use tugboats instead of locomotives will already have a negative impact on operations. The ACP counters, however, that using tugs for canal transits is a common practice around the world and the agency has purchased 14 state-of-the-art vessels for the task.

But lock design is in the past and construction is well underway.

The pilots say that they now want to be a part of making the most of what the ACP decided to build.

The pilots complain that the ACP has not set up sufficient training programmes to help them become familiarised with the new locks, despite the challenges of moving post-panamax ships through triple-chamber locks with tug support.

The ACP, however, argues that pilots have access to simulators using post-panamax vessels and that it recently unveiled additional training plans including scale model manoeuvring and the chartering of a post-panamax ship to begin trial lock transits once the first set of locks is complete.

Editor's Comment: The ACP will eventually learn that ignoring the warnings being issued by the Panama Canal Pilots was a mistake. But unfortunately there will likely be an accident first. Then the ACP will blame the pilot, and refuse to accept they adopted a significantly flawed plan from the start.

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Heads Up! Heavy Weather This Morning - Stay Home...

WeatherBy Don Winner for Panama-Guide.com - Panama's National Civil Protection System (SINAPROC) has issued a warning regaring a weather system that will be impacting Panama this morning. (more)

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(Martinelli's) Corrupt Comptroller Is Now Protecting (Martinelli's) Corrupt Supreme Court Judge...

CorruptionThe public declaration of personal assets filed by Supreme Court judge Alejandro Moncada Luna cannot be found in the files of the Second Notary - It is now in the hands of the Comptroller of the Republic Gioconda Torres de Bianchini. (more)

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Oferta Simple - Special Offer: Intercontinental Playa Bonita Resort

Travel & TourismThe ultimate Fiestas Patrias getaway is now available on OfertaSimple.com. Enjoy all inclusive stays at the Intercontinental Playa Bonita Resort at up to 56% OFF.

The resort, winner of TripAdvisor's 2013 Traveler's Choice award, is located just 15 minutes away from the city and the current deal on OfertaSimple.com features buffet meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner in additional to open bar. Valid on weekdays and weekends from October 22nd until December 23rd.

Check out the offer here: OfertaSimple.com

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National Police Will Take Over Security In Panama's Prisons

Crime & PunishmentAccording to the director of the National Police, Omar Pinzon, the entity is ready and has enough officers to meet the order issued by the President, Juan Carlos Varela, to take over Panama's prisons, after the shooting that happened in the Nueva Esperanza prison in the province of Colon. (more)

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Immigration Service "Flagrantly Violated" Due Process By Preventing Canadian Journalist Rosie Simms From Entering Pa

Gold & MiningPanama's National Immigration Service "flagrantly violated due process" by preventing the Canadian journalist Beatrice Rosie Simms' entry into Panama, which occurred on January 20, 2012. (more)

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Japan's Astomos orders new VLGC equipped to transit expanded Panama Canal

Canal Expansion(Platts) Japan's top LPG supplier, Astomos Energy, said Monday, September 29, it has placed an order to build a VLGC with a capacity of 83,000 cubic meters that will be equipped to pass through the expanded Panama Canal.

The order was placed with Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, and the tanker is to be delivered in the second half of 2016, Astomos Energy said, adding that the new VLGC will replace an older tanker in its fleet.

The Panama Canal Authority is targeting January 2016 for the expansion startup, but the market expects it sometime later that year.

The latest move is part of Astomos Energy's plans to scrap tankers that are 20-25 years old and build new VLGCs to replace them, while it also maintains or expands its use of chartered vessels to have a competitive and stable fleet amid expected increases in LPG output from the US and West Africa.

This is Astomos' third order this year for a vessel that can transit the expanded Panama Canal.

Astomos' previous orders were placed in March and July for VLGCs to be delivered in Q1 2016 and Q4 2016.

In December, Astomos placed two other orders for building new VLGCs that can transit the expanded Panama Canal. Those vessels are scheduled to be delivered in Q4 2015 and Q1 2016.

The vessel in Astomos Energy's latest new tanker order will be part of a fleet that is time-chartered and operated by Japan's Iino Lines, the company said.

As of September, Astomos Energy has a total of 21 VLGCs in its fleet, of which six are its own vessels and the other 15 are time-chartered tankers.

The company aims to expand its LPG fleet to around 30 VLGCs by 2020, Astomos Energy president Osamu Masuda said in April.

Editor's Comment: Just another example of a trickle-down resulting from Panama's decision to expand the Panama Canal.

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Stephanie Weston-Pineda Screws Up The Panamanian Anthem At A Boxing Match in Texas

Panama NewsBefore the Panamanian former boxing champion Anselmo 'Chemito' Moreno got into the ring, Stephanie Weston Pineda became the star of the night at the Mesquite Arena in Texas, after she made a big mistake and screwed up the beautiful words of the National Anthem of Panama. (more)

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Regional Health Centers Being Supplied By Water Tankers

Infrastructure UpgradesAmong the beneficiaries are the San Miguel Arcángel, Policlínica Manuel María Valdés, and Susana Jones. (more)

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Panama Making Progress Against Extreme Poverty

Money MattersThe goal of halving the proportion of the total population living on less than a dollar a day was fulfilled by Panama well before the 2015 deadline. (more)

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45 Homes Affected By Flooding

WeatherAt least 45 homes were affected by flooding yesterday in the district of La Chorrera and Arraiján, according to reports from the National Civil Protection System (SINAPROC). (more)

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