Site Meter
Send Us An Email
Panama Guide

Welcome to Panama Guide
Thursday, September 19 2019 @ 08:24 am EDT

Expat Tales

"Expat Tales" are the personal accounts of people who have traveled through Panama, have already moved here, and their telling of the things that have happened to them along the way. Everyone who has expereinced Panama in any way, shape or form is encouraged to contribute their voice for the potential benefit of others. In this section of you will find articles from and about the members of the English speaking expatriate community in Panama. If you require additional information about this or any other category of information regarding the Republic of Panama please take advantage of our powerful in-house search engine. And if you still can't find what you're looking for we even take requests! Welcome aboard, and please remember to tell your friends about, the #1 English Language Website about the Republic of Panama. Salud.
View Printable Version

Ex-Marine indicted in murder of Orange County woman in Panama

Expat TalesA former Marine was indicted Friday in the 2011 murder of an Orange County woman in Panama.

Brian Karl Brimager, 37, has been in custody since 2013.

The criminal case was slowed by extradition proceedings and a request from San Diego federal prosecutors to the Department of Justice to seek an indictment of Brimager on a little-used law involving a murder in a foreign land.

That permission granted, Brimager was indicted on a first-degree murder charge in the death of girlfriend Yvonne Baldelli, 42, who had lived in Dana Point. Her body was not found until 2013.

The two had moved to Isla Carenero, Panama, in 2011 but their relationship was marked by domestic violence, according to the federal indictment. Brimager killed Baldelli in November 2011, dismembered her body and disposed of the body parts in the jungle, according to the indictment.

Within hours of killing Baldelli, Brimager used her computer to do searches for information about "washing mattress" and "washing mattress blood stain."

While living with Baldelli, Brimager was emailing a woman in the United States with whom he had had a child, saying that he planned to return so the two could live together, according to prosecutors.

Brimager pleaded not guilty Friday to murder, obstruction of justice and making false statements to a federal officer. (NBC Los Angeles)

Editor's Comment: So, in the end they decided to prosecute Brimager in the US instead of trying to extradite him back to Panama to face murder charges. Part of me wishes Brimager would have spent the rest of his life rotting in a Panamanian hell-hole of a prison. But at the same time, there's a greater chance that he will be convicted and sentenced in the not-as-corrupt US justice system. In Panama, anyone can buy their way out of anything, including murder.

  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version


Expat TalesBy Nicole Carr FORT BRAGG, N.C. (WTVD) -- A Fort Bragg soldier charged with the murder of a Panamanian woman faced a pre-trial hearing Monday to decide whether he will face a military trial.

Master Sgt. Omar Velez-Pagan, 36, is facing a number of charges including unpremeditated murder for the slaying of his Panamanian girlfriend, Vanessa Rodriguez. The 25-year-old woman's partially decomposed body was discovered in the Guarare province of Panama last summer. It was near the training site where Velez-Pagan worked with other U.S. soldiers and Panamanian National police trainees.

Investigators believe Velez-Pagan ran the woman over several times with his pickup truck, and attempted to bury the body before anyone could find her.

One of the Panamanian policemen would discover Rodriguez's body and Velez-Pagan immediately confessed to killing the woman, a fellow soldier testified. Velez-Pagan described the killing as accidental to several soldiers including a training colleague and supervisor.

Velez-Pagan is now facing a slew of charges under the Uniformed Code of Military Justice, including unpremeditated murder, aggravated assault, adultery, and drug use for steroids. The charges carry a maximum sentence of life in prison, without the possibility for parole, dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowance, and reduction to the rank of E-1.

Within days of the murder, diplomatic immunity allowed Velez-Pagan to be transferred to the United States to face his legal fate, causing outrage across Panama and with civil rights groups wanting to the Central American justice system to handle the case.

On Monday, Velez-Pagan's military defense team asked that the murder charge be dropped because prosecutors did not prove that he "intended" to kill Rodriguez.

"What is disputable is intent, and the government has not shown intent," said Capt. Timothy Warner in closing arguments.

Prosecutors said the soldier absolutely intended to get rid of a woman who ready to blow the lid on their affair, and cost Velez-Pagan his career.

"This was not an accident," said Capt. Richard Connaroe. "We're not talking about simple negligence...We're not talking a heat of passion."

Maj. Stewart Hydenkhan, a the presiding preliminary hearing officer, will make his recommendations about what charges should stand and whether to send Velez-Pagan's case to a military court-martial. A final decision will be made by Fort Bragg's commander, Lt . Gen. Joseph Anderson.

The process could take months, but Rodriguez's family said Monday they are hopeful. Her parents, siblings and Panamanian Embassy representatives traveled from Panama City to Fort Bragg for the hearing.

"What can I say," her father Rogelio Rodriguez asked reporters. "Because I miss my daughter a lot, but uh, I believe American justice."


Velez-Pagan, a decorated soldier described by colleagues as an outstanding, mild-mannered leader, is assigned to the U.S. Army Security Assistance Training Organization, known as USASAC. At the time of the June 2014 murder, he was working with the U.S. Embassy in Panama, leading training efforts for Panamanian National Police officers.

Velez-Pagan, whose wife and young family resided in Fayetteville , was involved in an affair with Rodriguez, whom he called "La Chiriquiana," since she was born in the Panamanian province Chiriqui.

Rodriguez's father said his daughter was a student at the University of Panama, and wanted to go into broadcasting.

"She wanted to be a reporter just like you," he said.

Their affair was no secret, testified U.S. Army Sgt. Raoul Esteras, who was also a part of the police training group alongside Velez-Pagan.

"I did give him some advice on breaking up with Vanessa," Esteras testified.

"All the time, I told Vanessa, 'Vanessa, watch out. I don't like that type of relation,'" her father told reporters. "But , um, she didn't listen to me."

On June 22, 2014, Esteras testified the police trainees and soldiers needed a break. They'd been training non-stop, and decided to relax at a nearby beach for several hours. Velez-Pagan and Rodriguez were also on the beach, drinking and relaxing with the group. They were all supposed to meet at a hotel bar that evening to watch a World Cup game, but when Esteras pulled into the hotel parking lot, Velez-Pagan and Rodriguez passed the meeting spot in Velez-Pagan's pickup truck.

"We went into the fenced parking lot and he approached me in the outside of the fence and waved good-bye."

Esteras would not hear from Velez-Pagan until the next morning, when Velez-Pagan replied to a wellness check text. Velez-Pagan had missed physical training that morning, and asked Esteras to pick up a military uniform for him from the dry cleaners.

Esteras said he took Velez-Pagan his clothes, and headed out to the shooting range around 8:30 a.m. About an hour later Velez-Pagan showed up complaining of stomach issues. He said he was going to the wood line to "handle his business."

Shortly after Velez-Pagan emerged from the woods, a Panamanian police trainee named Rich asked him for toilet paper so he could also "handle business," in the trees, Esteras testified.

"Next thing we saw was Rich with gun drawn, pointing at Sgt. Velez, asking for back up," Esteras testified.

Rich had discovered Vanessa Rodriguez's body, lying face down in the woods. It was located right past a partially dug hole, a shovel and a pick, said investigators. She'd suffered a black eye, loose tooth, crushed skull and tire marks were over her head, according to a Panamanian medical examiner.

"[He said] I killed La Chiriquiana, and the body's back in the wood line," testified Esteras, referring to Velez-Pagan in the moments after Rich's discovery.

"I told him he had the right to remain silent. You know I have to arrest you."

"[He said] I was trying to break up with her," continued Esteras. "'She was trying to blackmail me.' Something to that effect."

Velez-Pagan would later tell Esteras and a supervisor that he and Rodriguez had been a heated argument, and she began to scratch him. She would take the wheel of his Toyota pick-up, causing them to crash, said Velez-Pagan. He hit her in the face, and she jumped out of the car. When he went after her, the truck would move in reverse, running over her face, Velez-Pagan said. The soldier would conclude his story with an attempt to get back in the truck and move it off Rodriguez's body, only for another axle to crush her face. He wanted to perform CPR, Velez-Pagan told Esteras, but Rodriguez's body looked very bad, and she did not have a pulse.

Panamanian authorities would transfer Velez-Pagan to a nearby women's prison for protection, said Esteras. Diplomatic immunity was declared, and within days the soldier was flown to the United States, processed in the Cumberland County jail, and transferred to a military prison at Camp Lejeune where he remained until Monday's hearing.


Special Agent James Robinson, who works with the Criminal Investigation Division out of Honduras, testified about physical evidence and video surveillance showing Velez-Pagan purchasing items that would later be found at the scene.

The evidence included blood stains all over the passenger side of Velez-Pagan's truck. They would test positive with Rodriguez's DNA, said Robinson.

Robinson also narrated a surveillance video from a hardware store near the training site where Velez-Pagan worked. On the morning of June 23, 2014, the day Rodriguez's body was discovered, a U.S. soldier identified by the store owners as Velez-Pagan, can be seen purchasing a pick similar to the one found near his girlfriend's body.

Robinson said the soldier had requested and received a shovel from police trainees prior to the video surveillance. One police employee told him to go to the store for a pick when Velez-Pagan requested one.

Robinson also testified that he recovered steroids and syringes from the apartment Velez-Pagan shared with Rodriguez.

During testimony about the medical examiner's report, Robinson said four tire marks were located across Rodriguez's head, indicating the woman was run over several times.

"The body is too short for right rear (axle) and left rear (axle) to both be on the body," Robinson said the medical examiner concluded.


After testimony from four prosecution witnesses, to include colleagues and investigators, the defense declined to call their own witnesses. Velez-Pagan also declined to make a statement. The defense did offer the soldiers Official Military Personnel File, or OMPF, to vouch for his stellar service.

Statements from dozens of other prosecution witnesses were presented, including one from Velez-Pagan's estranged wife. She was not present in the hearing, but two gentleman, including a uniformed soldier, came to support Velez-Pagan.

Rodriguez's mother wept in the hearing room, as the defense asked the murder charged to be dropped.

It may take several months for LTG. Anderson to make a call on what charges to uphold and whether to forward this case to court martial.

Meanwhile Rodriguez's family said they will return to Fort Bragg to see this case out to its end.

"I hope he admits he's guilty, because he is guilty," said Rodriguez's father. " But he has the right to be defended. That's democracy."

Editor's Comment: Steroids. Once again an American in Panama goes nuts and kills someone while using steroids. Wild Bill was all juiced up as he killed at least six people.

  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

Preliminary Hearing in Fort Bragg Tomorrow Against Omar Vélez Pagán (Murder in Panama)

Expat TalesRelatives of Vanessa Rodriguez, the victim of a homicide allegedly at the hands of the Dominican-born US soldier Omar Vélez Pagán, will travel this afternoon to the headquarters of the military court in North Carolina, to participate in the preliminary hearing to be held on Monday in the United States. (more)

You've just hit a "pay wall." Panama-Guide subscribers who have logged in to their user accounts can see the full text of this article. However non-members can only see this short introduction. If you would like to subscribe, please click this link to subscribe via PayPal.

  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

Dutchman With Underworld Ties Assassinated in Panama City

Expat TalesBy Don Winner for - The Dutch language media is blowing up this morning, reporting on the murder of a Dutchman named Sjaak "Jacob" Burger who was shot in the head in a restaurant on Saturday. (more)

You've just hit a "pay wall." Panama-Guide subscribers who have logged in to their user accounts can see the full text of this article. However non-members can only see this short introduction. If you would like to subscribe, please click this link to subscribe via PayPal.

  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

Arthur Porter's extradition on hold: Panama

Expat TalesBy Aaron Derfel - Arthur Porter’s extradition to Quebec has been put on hold as his lawyer continues to file legal motions before the Supreme Court of Panama challenging his detention in prison.

A spokesperson for Panama’s foreign affairs ministry told the Montreal Gazette that Porter’s lawyer has filed a habeas corpus writ — a legal motion seeking his release unless lawful grounds are shown for his detention.

“There are still reviews to be made in the habeas corpus,” Stacy Pérez said Tuesday. “For this reason, the extradition will not proceed.”

Monica de León, another official with Panama’s foreign affairs ministry, added: “At the moment, there are a series of pending habeas corpus to be resolved by the Supreme Court of Justice. Once (it) makes a pronouncement, the chancellery can then make a decision with respect to the extradition.”

On Monday, a spokesperson for Canada’s Justice Department gave a similar statement, writing in an email that “the matter of Mr. Porter’s extradition remains before the courts in Panama and his challenge will be processed according to their laws and procedures.

“Due to the confidential nature of state-to-state communications, the government cannot comment further on extradition requests,” Andrew Gowing said.

Held for nearly 600 days

In the meantime, Porter will remain in La Joya jail, where he has been incarcerated for nearly 600 days. Porter was arrested in Panama with his wife, Pamela Mattock Porter, on May 27, 2013, on charges that he was the mastermind behind an alleged conspiracy to defraud the McGill University Health Centre of $22.5 million.

Over the weekend, some news organizations reported that Porter’s extradition to Canada was imminent.

A source close to the case — who agreed to be interviewed on condition of anonymity — told the Montreal Gazette on Monday that Panama had recently agreed to Canada’s request to extradite Porter.

“There is still an administrative process left, and that’s why we don’t have a date yet for the extradition,” the source said, adding that provincial police were expecting to fly to Panama to escort Porter back to Quebec.

The source, however, was vague on some details about the case. And Quebec Crown prosecutor Marie-Hélène Giroux, who had spoken publicly in the past about Porter’s case, did not return several phone messages and emails.

Porter is being represented in court by Ricardo Bilonick, a U.S.-trained lawyer and former Panamanian ambassador to the United States who once boasted close ties with Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega.

Since October 2013, Bilonick has filed and lost at least three challenges before Panama’s Supreme Court over Canada’s extradition request, court records show.

Filed $140-million lawsuit

On June 25, Bilonick filed on behalf of Porter a $140-million lawsuit (150 million Panamanian balboas) against the government of Panama, claiming his client has been denied medical treatment for what he says is advanced lung cancer that has spread throughout Porter’s body.

Bilonick has also argued that Porter was on a so-called diplomatic mission on behalf of his native Sierra Leone when he was arrested unlawfully.

This month marks the second anniversary of Porter’s diagnosis of non-small cell lung cancer (adenocarcinoma). The median survival for Porter’s stage of disease is nine months. Porter says he believes he has been responding well to an experimental drug that Bilonick delivers to him in jail.

Bilonick was not available for comment despite email and phone messages left with him since Friday.

Steven Slimovitch, a Montreal lawyer with an expertise on extradition matters, said the length of time that Porter has spent in jail challenging his extradition is highly unusual.

On Dec. 18, Pamela Porter pleaded guilty to two counts of money laundering and was sentenced to two years in jail for her role in the alleged MUHC bid-rigging scam.

Arthur Porter is the only person out of a total of nine people — including former SNC-Lavalin executives — who has not appeared in a Quebec court to answer to criminal charges. Police allege that Porter was behind a conspiracy to award the $1.3-billion superhospital construction contract to engineering firm SNC-Lavalin in exchange for $22.5 million in secret commissions. (Montreal Gazette)

  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

'48 Hours: Devil's Island' Posts Broadcast's Best Audience Delivery Since November

Expat TalesBy Amanda Kondolojy - Saturday’s broadcast of “Devil’s Island” delivered the largest audience for 48 HOURS in nearly a year and was the night’s #1 non-sports broadcast in viewers, according to Nielsen live plus same day ratings for Nov. 15.

48 HOURS: “Devil’s Island” (10:00-11:00 PM) averaged 5.60 million viewers and a 1.3/04 with adults 25-54, the demographic that matters most to those who advertise in news. 48 HOURS posted its largest audience since Nov. 23, 2013 and matched season best adults 25-54 rating.

Saturday’s broadcast featured Peter Van Sant and 48 HOURS’ two-year investigation into the disappearance and death of Yvonne Baldelli, who moved to Bocas del Toro in Panama with her boyfriend, Brian Brimager. Brimager returned to California alone and Baldelli was never seen again alive.

The FBI and Panamanian authorities’ investigation into Baldelli’s disappearance would lead through the swamps of Island Bocas del Toro in Panama and back to San Diego, where they learned Brimager was leading a second life and had gotten married. Baldelli’s family also learned Brimager and Baldelli were not as happy as suggested. Brimager was taken into custody in the U.S. after he was charged with obstruction of justice. He was also charged with murder in Panama when Yvonne's remains were discovered not far from where the couple had been living.

48 HOURS: “Devil’s Island” is produced by Chris O’Connell. Mike Vele, Marlon Disla and Alan Miller are the editors. Anthony Batson is the senior broadcast producer. Susan Zirinsky is the senior executive producer.

  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

CBS 48 Hours "Devil's Island" Aired Last Night - The Murder of Yvonne Baldelli

Expat TalesBy Don Winner for - It was very hard for me to watch the 48 Hours program last might. Michelle Valenzuela was the first person who reached out to me to ask for help. It was devastating to see how she had been ravaged by cancer - an incredibly brave woman who's last act was to seek justice for her sister.

Here's a link to the program. You can now watch it online if you missed it last night:

As expected the entire CBS 48 Hours crew did an amazing job. Peter Van Sant is a compassionate professional, the best there is at what he does. The show was produced by Chris O'Connell who slogged through the swamps on Isla Carenero with the family, searching for Yvonne's remains. They're all pros.

  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

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...

  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

Panama Guide Will Appear on CBS 48 Hours (Again)

Expat Tales By Don Winner for - 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

  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

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.

  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

Parents Of Kris Kremers Want To Return Her Remains To Holland

Expat TalesThe parents of Kris Kremers are coming to Panama in two weeks, said Jerome van Pasell, a spokesman for the families of the two young Dutch women who apparently lost their lives in early April in an inhospitable area of Boquete, Chiriqui. (more)

You've just hit a "pay wall." Panama-Guide subscribers who have logged in to their user accounts can see the full text of this article. However non-members can only see this short introduction. If you would like to subscribe, please click this link to subscribe via PayPal.

  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

Birmingham gang boss: I won't die in Panama hell-hole jail

Expat Tales Brooding gangland Mr Big Leo Morgan, under lockdown at the steaming Panamanian jail where he has been left to rot, has made contact with the newspaper – to demand an end to inmates’ sewer conditions.

And the former cocaine cartel kingpin, who narrowly escaped death during a mass riot in notorious La Joya, had a simple message for his Birmingham family: “I’m not going to die here. I’ve become acclimatised to it.”

The former boxer turned drug baron has been confined to a 180-bed block, now crammed with 506 lags, since the bloody riot broke out in “Pavilion Six” three weeks ago.

And the 57-year-old, who survived for years in El Renacer Prison’s rancid, rat-infested conditions before being transferred to a high-security nick deemed even more hardcore, has emerged from the carnage to become spokesman for foreign prisoners.

In all, he has been banged up for 11 years – a stretch punctuated by bouts of solitary confinement.

Morgan has been particularly scathing of the treatment meted out to cellmate Mark Bodden, from British overseas territory, The Cayman Islands. The 37-year-old died after falling eight feet from his makeshift bed.

According to a document leaked by Morgan, it was 12 hours before drugs mule Bodden received medical attention for serious head injuries.

“Mark didn’t have to die,” said Morgan. “It could have been prevented. He died because of neglect.

“He didn’t have to go like that. He kept on about fishing in Cayman but he was a fish out of water here.”

Bodden is the 60th prisoner that Witton-raised Morgan, a once well-known, and feared, city bouncer, has seen die behind bars.

The tough regime has slipped from harsh to subhuman since the riot, where one Canadian suffered serious injury after being trampled by a mob desperately fleeing from the mist curtains of CS spray. Morgan helped drag the victim to safety.

“It just kicked off,” he said matter-of-factly. “They were just robbing. People were fighting back.”

Foreign prisoners are now confined 24/7 in a barn-like wing, and eke out an existence on rice and rainwater.

“It is now really bad,” he said. “It is unbelievable. It’s like the Vietnam War, the body count.

“Toilet? You use a bag or bucket and throw it over the wall.

“You have to get past it. I’d like to run away, but I can’t. I want to put this behind me. I just want to get to my family. It’s just bubbling up.”

Morgan, jailed since a £500,000 haul of cocaine was discovered at his Panamanian ranch, has three children in Birmingham. He also has a family in Central America. One of Birmingham’s most high-profile criminals, he fled Britain following a cannabis smuggling probe 21 years ago,

“We are locked down here, son,” he said. “We can’t go out. I can’t do my boxing.”

The hardman scrapes a living inside by fighting fellow prisoners for cash, and the reputation gained during those brutal brawls has helped Morgan avoid the morgue.

“No-one steps over the mark,” he growled. “You have your little battles and people get to know you.”

One of those little battles only days ago left Morgan nursing another stab wound, his family claims.

“Mosquitoes, malaria come around, but you have to get through it,” he added.

In his quest for better conditions, Morgan has met global diplomats, but has hit a brick wall. “They are not bothered,” he snapped. “They can’t get involved, the MP can’t get involved. What do you do? We’re not in Afghanistan here.”

Morgan is in limbo, without a release date in sight, courtesy of a tug-of-war with cops in Chechnya. They want him in the Russian state to face cocaine trafficking allegations.

“I can’t do with the not knowing and things going on and on,” he admitted. “You don’t know what’s going on. It’s madness.”

Morgan’s harrowing account of incarceration in Panama is borne out by official documents.

A 2012 report by the US bureau of democracy, human rights and labour concluded: “Prison conditions remained harsh and in some cases life-threatening.

“Problems included overcrowding, lack of medical services, lack of potable water and inadequate ventilation, lighting and sewage.”

Morgan’s own sister, Birmingham care home worker Linda Hirst, has little sympathy for his current predicament.

“When he got into what he got into, he knew there was going to be a consequence,” she said. “He brought it on himself. All gangsters eventually have to pay the price. I’ve worked all my life and look at the life I got...” (Birmingham Mail)

  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

Foreigner Accused Of Fraud Arrested in Panama City

Expat TalesThe Tourist Police captured an "African" in the area of Casco Antiguo, in San Felipe, accused of defrauding a hotel in Bocas del Toro of $30.000. (more)

You've just hit a "pay wall." Panama-Guide subscribers who have logged in to their user accounts can see the full text of this article. However non-members can only see this short introduction. If you would like to subscribe, please click this link to subscribe via PayPal.

  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

Additional Skeletal Remains Found - Possibly Belonging To Dutch Women Lisanne Froon and/or Kris Kremers

Expat TalesPanamanian authorities reported today new skeletal remains have been found in the area where the two young Dutch women Lisanne Froon and Kris Kremers disappeared in April. (more)

You've just hit a "pay wall." Panama-Guide subscribers who have logged in to their user accounts can see the full text of this article. However non-members can only see this short introduction. If you would like to subscribe, please click this link to subscribe via PayPal.

  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

Rumor (Denied): Has William David Holbert "Wild Bill" Committed Suicide? (No, He's Fine)

Expat Tales Update: Yesterday afternoon a reader sent me an email regarding the rumor that William David Holbert had supposedly committed suicide. I put a note on Twitter, asking my Panamanian journalist colleagues for help in either confirming or denying the rumor. They contacted Holbert's lawyer, who made a statement to the press;

  • Claudia Alvarado de Sotto, the attorney for William Dathan Holbert, better known as "Wild Bill", denied that her client had committed suicide, as was rumored yesterday afternoon through social networks.

  • She said "Wild Bill" has not performed any action which would infringe on his personal integrity, and he remains quiet in holding cell 1 of the public jail of David.

  • "William is quiet, and he has not shown any type of behavior that would lead him to make that decision. I see him frequently on lawyer visits offered by the criminal justice system. Apparently, it was a bad release, he's fine," said the lawyer.

Editor's Comment: Holbert continues to await decisions from the Supreme Court on motions put forward by his lawyer. Once those are resolved, a trial date will be established for the several murder cases he's facing. He's already confessed to having murdered six people, so the only real issue in the trial will be how the Panamanians handle Holbert's accomplice, Laura Michelle Reese. Both of them will probably spend the rest of their lives in prison. And once Panama is done with them, they still have to face the Costa Rican justice system for the murder of Jeff Kline. And if they ever get done with that, there are still cases pending against them in the United States. So yeah, they will never see the light of day again.

(Original article, published as a rumor. Has since been proven wrong)

By Don Winner for - Someone just gave me a heads-up (thanks) saying there's a strong rumor going around in David and Changuinola that the confessed serial killer William David Holbert - a.k.a. "Wild Bill" - has committed suicide in the public prison in David.

Right now, it's nothing more than a rumor. I'm working to either confirm or deny these reports right now. I'll let you know when I learn more, either way.

Copyright 2014

  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

Arrest made in Panama slaying of Ottawa businessman

Expat TalesA one-time family friend has been arrested in the slaying of a former Ottawa businessman whose body was found inside a discarded suitcase in Panama’s oldest national park.

The decomposed body of Ed Moynan, 68, the longtime owner of Centennial Glass, was found in March 2013, four months after he disappeared from his retirement home in the coastal city of Coronado, Panama.

Ludwig Vico Pereira, 56, a Swiss national, was arrested late last week by police in Coronado; he had been the subject of an Interpol arrest warrant.

Moynan’s daughter, Sandra Moynan-Longworth, reacted to news of the arrest on her Facebook page: “They finally arrested the main suspect in my father’s murder over a year-and-a-half later … finally some justice.”

In an interview, Moynan-Longworth told the Citizen that Pereira once lived in the same Coronado neighbourhood as her parents and frequently dined at their home. Pereira — known to his friends as Lewis — even spent Christmas with the Moynan family.

“They were very, very close,” said Moynan-Longworth. “But that friendship was just one big façade.”

Moynan-Longworth said her father was shot in the head before being packed into a suitcase. She doesn’t believe Pereira pulled the trigger but that he was likely part of a larger criminal conspiracy. She said more arrests are expected.

The family, she added, has resolved to apply public pressure to see that justice is done.

“We’re sick of being scared,” she said. “When dad disappeared for those first four months, we didn’t know if we were waiting for a ransom demand or what we were dealing with. But now we’re not scared. Now we’re just angry.”

The family doesn’t know what motivated the killers, Moynan-Longworth said, but she suspects it had something to do with her father’s purchase of several pieces of land in Panama. He recognized the country was about to boom, she said, and invested in local real estate soon after retiring.

“I guess he must have gotten in somebody’s way,” she said.

Panama is known as a major transit point for drugs headed to the U.S. and has long been used by cartels to launder their money.

Born and raised on a farm in Quebec’s Eastern Townships, Ed Moynan went into business after high school, first as a ski manufacturer and then, in Ottawa, as the longtime owner of Centennial Glass.

He moved to Panama three years ago with his wife, Louise, after they retired. He had fallen in love with the country while visiting his sister Ruth, who had moved there years earlier.

Moynan disappeared from his home in a gated Panama community on Nov. 8, 2012, while his wife was visiting family in Ottawa. She returned to their home in Coronado days later to find her husband’s glasses broken on the floor and some furniture scratched and out of place. His wallet, identification and laptop were also found inside the house. Moynan and his rental car — a Kia Rio used while his own was at the garage — were gone.

At first, police treated it as a simple missing persons case, but it later turned into a criminal investigation.

The family has hired three different lawyers since Moynan first went missing in order to pressure the police to advance the case.

Moynan’s abandoned rental car was found in January 2013 at a local shopping mall parking lot. But it wasn’t until March 1, 2013, that some workers at Altos de Campana National Park discovered human remains stuffed inside a suitcase left along the roadside.

The park, which offers dramatic views of the Pacific Ocean from its hills, is about an hour’s drive from Coronado.

The body was conclusively identified as Moynan’s through DNA testing.

A recent report on an English-language Panamanian website,, suggests authorities believe the arrested suspect did not act alone and that three or four other people could have been involved in Moynan’s abduction and killing, including a deported Canadian.

There is still no official information about a motive for the killing, but it is believed that Moynan had a significant amount of cash on hand. According to Don Winner, editor of the website, Moynan purchased two plane tickets on his credit card for a neighbour, who paid him $1,500 in cash, on the day that he disappeared. (Ottawa Citizen)

Editor's Comment: Correct. Moynan had purchased the plane ticket for his friend and neighbor, Ludwig Vico Pereira. It was one of those things where Moynan had a credit card and he used it to purchase the plane ticket online. Pereira then paid him the $1,500 cash for the plane ticket. As a matter of fact, on the day Moynan disappeared, Pereira flew back to Europe using that same plane ticket.

You can easily make the argument Pereira flew to Europe in order to establish an alibi for himself, especially if he had paid someone to kill Moynan and he knew when it was going to take place. And then Pereira did a relatively ballsy thing - he returned to Panama and went about his life as if nothing had happened.

I've been following this case for a very long time, and haven't been able to write much about it, waiting for an arrest to take place. I suspect there will be a couple of more people arrested, those who actually pulled the trigger and disposed to Moynan's body.

  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

Arrest made in Panama homicide of Ottawa's Ed Moynan

Expat Tales A Swiss man has been arrested in the killing of an Ottawa man in Panama, CBC News has learned.

Ed Moynan disappeared in 2012 and was later found dead.

Ed Moynan's body was found in a suitcase in Panama in March 2013, in a park not far from the gated community where he lived with his wife, Louise Moynan.

He was 68 and had been reported missing in November 2012.

A 56-year-old Swiss man the couple knew as a neighbor was arrested in connection to the case on Friday, according to Louise Moynan and her lawyer, Carlos Sanad.

Ludwig Pereira had been the subject of an international police bulletin that said he was wanted on suspicion of homicide.

"We had reliable information that one of the suspects was walking freely in Panama City … I'm also a consultant with the national police of Panama, we started working on the case and thank God we had an effective arrest of the suspect," Sanad said in an interview with All in a Day host Stu Mills.

"The problem in Panama is there's a lot of people wanted ... in Panama, we the attorneys have to act like investigators, we have to act as lawyers, we have to act as police; myself I was waiting for this guy last Friday with my handcuffs and my gun just in case the backup didn't show up."

Swiitzerland's Ludwig Pereira has been arrested in connection with the death of Ed Moynan, a 68-year-old Ottawa native living in Panama. (INTERPOL)

"It's very difficult to me, going back to this," Louise Moynan told CBC News on Tuesday morning. "All I'm praying for is that whoever did this ... are [brought] to justice. That's all I'm hoping for, that justice is served.

"I don't think I have enough vocabulary, words to describe the frustration. It's been very very difficult," she said, adding that it's been hard to deal with a judicial system she doesn't understand.

The couple had moved to the beach town of Coronado after selling their Ottawa business, Centennial Glass. Louise Moynan returned to Ontario after her husband disappeared.

At the time, police in Panama said the couple's home was found ransacked. Moynan's broken glasses, wallet and watch were also found in the home.

Sanad told CBC News an investigation suggests there may have been others involved in the killing, a crime which carries a maximum penalty of 50 years in prison in Panama.

He added the time this case has taken means prosecutors will have to ask their superior court for an extension before Pereira is formally charged or conditionally discharged. (

Editor's Comment: Ed Moynan gave Ludwig Pereira a large sum of money to invest in real estate in Chiriqui, and he was supposed to return a profit. The investments didn't pan out, and Pereira poorly spent and mismanaged the money. Moynan began to pressure Pereira to return the money, and then shortly thereafter Moynan disappeared.

Ludwig Pereira has been the primary suspect in this case from day one. It's good to see the slowly turning wheels of justice in Panama have finally caught up to him. I suspect he probably paid someone else to actually do his dirty work for him. Let's see what comes out, now that he's sitting in a DIJ holding cell, looking at a 50 year murder rap.

Consider this. William Dathan Holbert and Laura Michelle Reese were expats, and all six of their victims were also expats. Javier Martin is a Spaniard (expat) who killed the American Don North and Frenchman Jean Pierre Bouhard. The American Brian Brimager killed his American girlfriend Yvonne Baldelli in Bocas del Toro. And now here's yet another case of one expat killing another. It seems apparent expats living in Panama should be most concerned about the possibility of being killed by another expat...

  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

6,000 Prison Inmates On Hunger Strike in Panama (Gee, Thanks "Wild Bill")

Expat TalesMore than 6,000 inmates in the La Joyita prison have started a hunger strike today, Monday. (more)

Editor's Comment: (Find out why every prison inmate in Panama should be exceptionally pissed at "Wild Bill" Holbert).

You've just hit a "pay wall." Panama-Guide subscribers who have logged in to their user accounts can see the full text of this article. However non-members can only see this short introduction. If you would like to subscribe, please click this link to subscribe via PayPal.

  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

William Dathan Holbert Now Committing Crimes From Prison - Via The Internet

Expat Tales By Don Winner for - Is anyone surprised? Now there are reports the confessed serial killer William Dathan Holbert, a.k.a. "Wild Bill," is using a cell phone and Internet connection to commit crimes in cyberspace, and the Panamanian authorities still have not shut down his access.

This morning I received a tip from a source who wishes to remain anonymous indicating Holbert is using the Internet to impersonate women and commit fraud;

  • "Get on Craigslist Panama and click on Women Seeking Men in the personal section and you will see posted near the top a warning that Wild Bill and one other in jail with him are using the site to impersonate women and exploit those that answer their ads. Just thought you would like to know, as you write about the bum sometimes."

Correct on both counts. I do want to know (thanks), because I think the Panamanian authorities should enforce their own laws, rules, and regulations regarding prisoner access to cell phones and the Internet - specifically to prevent them from committing these sorts of crimes.

Checking out the tip, I found the following posted on the Craigslist Panama website, at the top;

  • "WARNING. READ THIS BEFORE CONTACTING ANYBODY FROM THIS PAGE. There are two man in jale. Wild Bill (murder) and Fred Osburn (fraud) Using My information and talking with americans saying thats me and I am looking for sexual encounters, and also asking them for money. You think you're talking with me but that's not true. They're two depravates getting all your information and then hacking your accounts. Be careful with any sexual anunce using Jessica or gringa in Boquete because you're just talking with those two guys in jale."

(Note: The photo used in this article is just some random advertisement from Craigslist Panama posted by two chicks who will visit your hotel in Panama City during daylight hours - and is not apparently associated with the illegal efforts by Holbert and Osburn to deceive and defraud the public in any way. But you know me - any excuse to post a pair of hooters is basically good enough...)

Well, that's to be expected. The criminals are concentrated in the prisons, so of course it's natural and normal to expect them to try to continue to commit crimes while in prison if given half a chance. There are actually two versions of this same warning posted on Craigslist in two different sections on different days. So, apparently he's been doing this for some time.

Editor's Comment: I continue to express my concerns to the Panamanian legal and judicial authorities regarding prisoner access to smart phones and the Internet. Javier Martin was trying to use a cell phone from prison to book trips on sailboats for tourists. Now Holbert is impersonating women on Craigslist to commit fraud and identity theft.

Why is it so hard to put Holbert in a tiny little box, with practically no creature comforts whatsoever? He should be provided with whatever is required by law - according to international standards for Human Rights - and nothing else. By that I mean (start) food, bedding, drinking water, and a toilet (/end), enclosed by four solid walls. There's no way in hell this murderous monster should have a cell phone. So he can't talk to his mother in North Carolina. So what? Who gives a shit?

If I were the Warden of the David prison I would make a long list of "things that make William Dathan Holbert unhappy" and then I would implement those things, one by one. In my opinion Holbert should be a very unhappy and frustrated prison inmate. He should suffer each and every possible aspect of the deprivation of liberty and personal freedoms, as consequences associated with the crimes he's committed. He should have no say, whatsoever, with regards to the conditions of his confinement.

What's more, his continued and blatant disregard for prison rules and regulations proves his recently acquired religious rhetoric is false, and purely self serving. Holbert is a hypocrite who cites the Bible, while he simultaneously uses the Internet to impersonate women in an attempt to defraud desperate gringo men in Panama who are seeking affection. This is the same guy who was a Nazi loving white supremacist, who chose the name "Adolf" when buying a fake passport. Yeah, he's all about God and Jesus...

But whatever. This piece of shit will rot in prison until he eventually dies, dreaming about the freedoms he will never again experience, at the very least. He's already severely limited, and I would just like to see that last little bit of wiggle-room reduced to absolute zero.

Related Articles:

Copyright 2014

  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

Expat Stig Pedersen Dies From Injuries Received During Assault In Bocas del Toro

Expat Tales By Don Winner for - Stig Pedersen, a member of the community of English speaking expatriates living in the Republic of Panama of US and Danish descent, died last night as a result of the injuries he received during a brutal assault and robbery.

On June 21, six armed, masked men assaulted and abducted 73 year old Stig Pedersen at his home located in Tierra Oscura, in Bocas del Toro, in the Republic of Panama.

This morning I received the following from one of Stig's friends;

  • I hope you are well.

  • We are all shocked to learn this morning that Stig died last night.

  • You may not have heard that 2 weeks ago 6 armed men arrived at his house ransacked the house and assaulted Stig savagely.

  • The perps stole Stigs Panga and kidnapped Meribel and the unconscious Stig and drove away with Stigs Panga loaded with the loot stolen from his house.

  • Stig was found about 2 hours later at Pittie Creek in his boat and saturated with petrol. Meribel had jumped from the speeding boat fearing for her life and swam ashore.

  • He was taken by the police to hospital in Almirante, later transferred to Changuinola and later still David.

  • He was in intensive care then an operation we think to ease pressure caused by bleeding on his brain.

  • He seemed to be recovering and was allowed home in a wheelchair 2 days ago. He was speaking but was unable to walk due to paralysis down one side of his body.

  • Last night apparently he suffered some breathing difficulties and then died.

  • We are all very sad and appalled by this and I in particular would like to do anything I can to put pressure on the police and prosecutors to make sure this is properly investigated and that criminals get punished.

  • Any advice you can offer or pressure you can exert would be appreciated.

Related Article: Gringo (US/Denmark Expat) Assaulted In Bocas del Toro - Needs Blood Donations

Editor's Comment: I would return to the neighbor who Stig said "wants him dead" as a starting point. My condolences to his friends and family.

Copyright 2014

  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

Well Known American Expat Clyde Jenkins Died in Colombia Yesterday at 78 Years of Age

Expat Tales By Don Winner for - With great sorrow and a heavy heart I report the death of my good friend Clyde Jenkins, who passed away yesterday at a hospital in Colombia. A friend of his posted the following on the Colombia Expats yahoo email group;

  • Clyde passed away about an hour ago. He had been in a coma since early Sunday morning. He was sedated and did not suffer. In the last 24 hours his status turned critical as his kidneys had failed and he developed a bad infection.

  • Gina is making funeral arrangements. Since Clyde was a relapsed Catholic, she is arranging a mass for him. As he wished, his body will be cremated and the ashes scattered.

  • I will verify that a death certificate has been prepared and issued and will also make certain that the US Embassy in Bogota is notified. When I inquired Tuesday, I was told they will need the death certificate before the death can be formally processed.

  • Those of us who knew him and visited him when he was in Santuario know that his life was simple but comfortable. He had homemade furniture, some appliances and clothes. There are two very dated hand held GPS units, a Dell laptop and a larger display. Aside from these, the whole bunch would probably bring only a few hundred thousand pesos if sold. He told me last week that he wanted these few things to go to Gina, and the laptop to his Young student friend Jhonny. He was so grateful for their care during his decline over the last weeks. As long as I knew him, he never had a TV.

  • I will remember this remarkable man fondly. He was highly intelligent. He kept his mind active playing games such as Free Cell, but would add complicated rules, play the games backward and so forth. He devoured the news daily by internet. During our friendship which lasted over 5 years, I visited him often, at times along with my brother Dwight. Clyde liked to recount his childhood in Washington and his later life in San Diego. He wrote some beautiful little vignettes about his life and his loves. He had once been quite wealthy, but lived his simple life very happily. He never complained about not having enough, and was blissfully happy in his precious Santuario. He was an accomplished chef. Whenever I would visit, I would bring lots of goodies for him - cheeses, salamis and other stuff he could not find in Santuario or Pereira. He always got a bottle of Gran Marnier from me. He had remarkable recall. Even in his last days, when he became quite fuzzy and would worry about dementia, I would prop him up by pointing out how well he remembered events, people and places. He told me that perhaps the only regret he might feel in his last minutes would be that he did not live to see Orke O brought to justice in Panama.

  • God Bless you friend. Rest in Peace and surely near your beloved Pacific ocean.

  • Your friend Tommy

I first met Clyde about ten years ago at an even organized for expats in Panama. We quickly became friends, and we were close while he lived here. I would pick him up from his small little one-room apartment in Casco and we would go do whatever together.

Clyde was a constant presence on most of the Panama related Yahoo email groups. I asked him to help me moderate the Americans in Panama Yahoo group, and he volunteered to help me clean out the moderated messages and keep the (mentally ill) trolls at bay. He was happy, friendly, and more than willing to give of his time and experience to help the members of the growing community of English speaking expatriates, both in Panama and in Colombia.

Bye, Clyde. Thanks for everything. Rest in Peace, Marine...

Copyright 2014

  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

"We've Only Been In Office For A Week" - Minister Henriquez Responding To Wild Bill Emails

Expat TalesThe messages posted by William Dathan Holbert, commonly known as "Wild Bill", to his social networking account and sent via email to the Editor of the La Estrella newspaper, have reopened doubts regarding security in Panama's prisons. (more)

You've just hit a "pay wall." Panama-Guide subscribers who have logged in to their user accounts can see the full text of this article. However non-members can only see this short introduction. If you would like to subscribe, please click this link to subscribe via PayPal.

  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

Clyde Jenkins - Reportedly On His Deathbed in Colombia

Expat Tales By Don Winner for - The word from Colombia about Clyde Jenkins - who lived in Panama as a member of the English speaking community of expatriates for years - is not good. Reportedly, Clyde has been admitted to the hospital and the prognosis is not good.

Clyde traveled extensively around Panama while he was living here. He volunteered to help manage the Americans in Panama Yahoo email group as a moderator. A thankless job he did for years as the designated resident "bouncer" - Clyde would help me spot the perpetual trolls and toss them, to the betterment of the overall group and membership.

Clyde was a good friend, who made a long list of enemies by simply doing the right thing. I've already seen some malicious slander being put out against him, now that he can no longer defend himself.

I've only got one source of information for this, and have not been able to confirm independently. I tried to call his house and didn't get an answer so I will try again later. But at this point, it looks like Clyde might have typed his last email...

Copyright 2014

  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

US soldier suspected of slaying Panamanian woman

Expat TalesPANAMA CITY, Panama — Activists in Panama are demanding that a career U.S. soldier suspected of killing a local woman be tried in local courts.

Master Sgt. Omar Velez is being held at Fort Bragg in North Carolina in connection with the murder of woman in her mid-20s whose body was found in Panama on June 23. He was charged in the military justice system Monday with unpremeditated murder, according to Army spokeswoman Kimberly Hanson. Velez has not made any public statements about the case and Hanson could not supply the name of his military defense attorney.

Joyce Araujo, president of the Foundation for Gender Equity in Panama, told The Associated Press Monday that she believes Velez’ diplomatic immunity allowed him to evade proper investigation.

Her group is among those in a coalition of women’s rights groups that expressed disappointment on Friday in the handling of the case, and demanded that local leaders reassert sovereignty.

“Diplomatic immunity cannot be an opening for impunity when it involves a crime as profound as the killing of women, especially a Panamanian woman on Panamanian soil,” the coalition wrote.

Velez, who has served in the military since 2000, held a leadership position as a senior non-commissioned officer. He was in Panama conducting training as part of a unit associated with the sale of military equipment when the killing occurred.

Local media report that Velez allegedly had been romantically involved with the woman and was discovered near her body with a shovel after an apparent crime of passion. (AP)

  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

Trial venue for military killing sparks outrage

Expat TalesBy Meredith Clark - An American soldier charged by the military with the murder of a 26-year-old woman in Panama will be tried in the United States, sparking protests by women’s groups and outraged family members.

Army Master Sergeant Omar Antonio Velez, 35, was charged by military authorities Monday with the “unpremeditated murder” of Vanessa Rodriguez and is currently being held in pre-trial confinement in North Carolina, according to Kim Hanson, an army spokeswoman. Velez was in Panama conducting trainings as part of the U.S. Army Security Assistance Training Management Organization.

Hanson confirmed to msnbc that Velez has been charged and is awaiting his Article 32 hearing, which is similar to a civilian preliminary hearing. However, he was not charged with a crime in Panama because he had been issued a diplomatic passport, giving him immunity from local prosecution. Hanson also said that the military’s criminal investigation division is working on the case in conjunction with the Panamanian government.

The military “will fully investigate this incident and take appropriate action,” Hanson told msnbc in an email. The Army also “expresses its deepest regret” over Rodriguez’s death.

Velez allegedly shot and killed Rodriguez, with whom he reportedly had a relationship, before trying to hide her body. He was arrested on June 23, and, according to the Associated Press, he was found with a shovel near the quarry where the woman’s body was discovered.

A coalition of women’s rights groups in Panama has demanded that officials do something to bring Velez back for prosecution and asked that Rodriguez’s family have a voice in whatever judicial proceedings take place around the case.

On Friday, six women’s groups released a statement calling on Panamanian authorities to release information about Velez’s whereabouts and legal status, and requesting that the U.S. government conduct a thorough investigation and remove his diplomatic immunity. They also asked the United Nations to look into whether the U.S. and Panama are handling the case according to international women’s rights treaties.

“Immunity must not be impunity,” the statement said.

It is not unheard of for members of the military or contractors to receive protection and assistance from the U.S. Embassy. The White House said in June that President Obama had received diplomatic assurances that the soldiers being sent to assist the Iraqi government in its fight against militants would not be tried in Iraqi courts for actions they take while deployed there.

In 2011, American officials helped free CIA contractor Raymond Davis from Pakistani law enforcement after he shot and killed two men in Lahore and ran over another. Officials argued at the time that Davis also had diplomatic immunity; he was released from a Pakistani prison after the families of the dead men were given $2.34 million in “restitution.” (MSNBC)

  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

Family Members Don't Want Vanesa's Murder To Go Unpunished

Expat TalesThe relatives of Vanesa Rodriguez, who was allegedly murdered by a U.S. Army soldier of Puerto Rican descent, are keeping track of the case, and they do not want the crime to go unpunished. (more)

You've just hit a "pay wall." Panama-Guide subscribers who have logged in to their user accounts can see the full text of this article. However non-members can only see this short introduction. If you would like to subscribe, please click this link to subscribe via PayPal.

  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

US Army Master Sergeant Omar Velez Has Been Charged With "Unpremeditated Murder" of Panamanian Woman

Expat Tales By Don Winner for - US Army Master Sergeant Omar Velez-Pagan has been charged with "unpremeditated murder" under Article 118 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) this afternoon.

MSG Velez-Pagan remains in military pre-confinement in North Carolina, pending the date of a pretrial hearing.

U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command (CID) continues its investigation of this case in conjunction with the government of Panama.

A statement issued today by Kim Hanson of the Public & Congressional Affairs at the Headquarters of the US Army Material Command says "We give our assurances to the Government and people of Panama that U.S. military authorities will fully investigate this incident and take appropriate action."

Editor's Comment: OK, first things first. Velez was charged under Article 118 of the UCMJ - murder. It's very important to point out that he was not charged under Article 119 which is manslaughter. Specifically, Article 118 (1) deals with premeditated murder, and apparently the conditions indicated Velez didn't have a "premeditated design to kill." In other words, Velez didn't plot or plan to kill his girlfriend.

Rather, Velez was charged under Article 118 (2) - which deals with unpremeditated murder. The following elements should exist for the accused to be charged in this way;

  • (2) Intent to kill or inflict great bodily harm.
    • (a) That a certain named or described person is dead;

    • (b) That the death resulted from the act or omission of the accused;

    • (c) That the killing was unlawful; and

    • (d) That, at the time of the killing, the accused had the intent to kill or inflict great bodily harm upon a person.

Head's up, I'm going to speculate somewhat here. Velez is together with his girlfriend. They get into a fight. He punches her in the face - either once or several times. She dies as a result of the injuries inflicted by Velez. If that's the way it went down, then Velez is guilty of "unpremeditated murder" under Article 118 (2) of the UCMJ. He didn't plan on killing his girlfriend, but that's what happened anyway, because he intended to "inflict great bodily harm" when he punched her in the face.

Remember this first article I published last Wednesday - US Army Master Sergeant Omar Velez - Prime Suspect In Murder Of Panamanian Woman - said "The Panamanian woman, nicknamed "La chiricana", had multiple lesions on her anatomy, especially in the face, ranging from beatings to lacerations." So there's a pretty good chance that the potential speculative scenario described above is exactly what happened.

It should also be pointed out that Velez is not being held on Ft. Bragg. He's being held in the County Jail, run by the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office. And although the US Material Command press release says Velez was charged today, the online record available through the Cumberland Detention Center Active Inmate Search system still lists "military hold" under the "charge" section on their database. I'm sure that will be updated soon.

In Panama, there's a tangible concern that the US government will make some sort of effort to cover up, protect, or not fully prosecute Velez for the murder of Vanesa Rodriguez. The US Embassy and SOUTHCOM should make a concerted effort to point out what most Americans consider to be obvious and unnecessary. Things are different in the US. In Panama, people are fully accustomed to seeing no justice whatsoever. The rich and powerful regularly and routinely get away with just about everything. There needs to be a conversation, reinforcing the message that in the US, there is a functioning justice system which is much better at prosecuting, convicting, and punishing criminals. Basically - don't worry. If the evidence indicates Velez is guilty, then chances are the system will work, and he will spend the rest of his life behind bars at Ft. Leavenworth.

Mugshot - US Army Master Sergeant Omar Velez has been charged with murder, in the death of his girlfriend, Vanesa Rodriguez, 25, of Panama. Velez was returned to the United States and arrested on 26 June 2014.

Copyright 2014

  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

Mugshot - US Army Master Sergeant Omar Velez

Expat TalesBy Don Winner for - US Army Master Sergeant Omar Velez has been arrested by the Sheriff's Office of Cumberland County in North Carolina in the United States. He was returned to the US from Panama as a suspect in the murder of the 25 year old Panamanian woman Vanesa Rodriguez.

According to a spokesman speaking for the US Material Command, upon his return to the US the evidence against him was reviewed by a Military Magistrate (judge), who determined there was enough to warrant his continued detention.

Omar Antonio Velez, 35, was arrested last Thursday, June 26, 2014. There is a file on his arrest available on the website of the Cumberland County Sheriff's Department. In the section of the form under "charges" - Velez's status is listed as "military hold." Booking ID: 172833. This is his mugshot:

US Army Detectives assigned to the Criminal Investigation Command (CID) have almost certainly been deployed to the Republic of Panama to gather additional information and evidence, as part of the investigation into the murder. Once that process has been at least partially completed, then the US military authorities on Ft Bragg will formally charge Omar Velez, and the legal proceedings against him will commence.

Copyright 2014

  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

U.S. soldier suspected of murder in Panama likely to face military justice

Expat Tales PANAMA CITY (Reuters) - A U.S. soldier suspected of murdering a Panamanian woman will "most likely" face charges in a military court in the United States, a U.S. military spokesman said on Sunday.

Master Sergeant Omar Velez is being held in pretrial confinement at the U.S. Army's Fort Bragg in North Carolina, but formal charges have not been filed against him, said Colonel William Bigelow, a spokesman for U.S. Southern Command.

Velez was conducting training in Panama as part of the U.S. Army Security Assistance Training Management Organization, a unit generally associated with foreign sales of military equipment, Bigelow said by telephone.

He said Velez will probably face charges in U.S. military courts. He emphasized that a final decision has not been made.

Panama's attorney general's office has not commented on the case.

Panamanian daily newspaper Critica has reported that Velez was apprehended as he was attempting to bury the body of the 26-year-old victim, with whom he was believed to have a romantic relationship.

The U.S. Southern Command cannot confirm those details, spokeswoman Kimberly Hanson said.

The U.S. Army "will fully investigate this tragedy and take any and all appropriate action," according to a statement issued late last week.

Editor's Comment: Finally. With this report the US military has confirmed the identity of MSG Omar Velez as the suspect in the murder of the 25 year old Panamanian woman Vanesa Rodriguez. Is should be pointed out that the Panamanian press is reporting Vanesa's age as 25, while this Reuters report is saying she's 26.

And yes, military members on active duty who commit crimes such as murder always face a jury trial under the Unified Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). It's nice to see that Reuters is following my lead on this story.

Reuters should now ask the US Military and SOUTHCOM if they have this photo of Vanesa Rodriguez holding a military issued firearm, on the training range near the Guarare river where Omar Velez was training members of the Panamanian police and security forces;

At the time of his arrest, MSG Omar Velez was reportedly caught red-handed, standing over the corpse of his dead girlfriend, next to a freshly dug grave, the shovel and pickaxe he used to dig the grave, and a bag of lime he was going to dump on her body to speed decomposition. All of this was found near the shooting range where this photo was taken.

One more minor observation. When SOUTHCOM issued this press release over the weekend in response to the murder of Vanesa Rodriguez and the arrest of Omar Velez, the first sentence of the original version said "The United States expresses its deepest regret over the death of a young Panamanian woman." This was later changed to read "The United States Army expresses its deepest regret over the death of a young Panamanian woman." They made the change because the Commander in Chief of the US Southern Command cannot speak for the United States of America - that's what the President is for.

But, there's a problem. The Commander in Chief of the US Southern Command also cannot speak for the US Army. General Raymond T. Odierno is the Chief of Staff of the US Army, and only he can speak on behalf of, or "express its deepest regret."

General John F. Kelly, a member of the US Marine Corps and the Commander in Chief of the US Southern Command can only speak for SOUTHCOM - not the US Army or the United States of America. This is what happens when military gonks issue press releases over the weekend, when the adults - civilian employees with deep experience and lawyers - are taking a day off to roast hot dogs or whatever.

Now, I don't expect SOUTHCOM will issue yet another correction to fix this gaff. And, it's sort of depressing that I had to be the one to point it out. Aren't the lights on there, somewhere? Hello, Public Affairs Branch? Anyone manning the desk (with a clue)?

But whatever. At least now someone in the US government has finally and officially admitted that US Army Master Sergeant Omar Velez is in fact, in custody as a suspect in the murder of Vanesa Rodriguez in Panama. This confirms the earlier reporting by La Critica as spot-on.

Don't fuck this up, guys. If this asshole murdered his girlfriend, there's no need whatsoever to "protect" him from anything. There are more than 50,000 people living in the Republic of Panama as members of the English speaking community of expatriates. Many of them are former military veterans, and military retirees. If there is any perception - and I mean any little tiny perception whatsoever - that the US government or the US military is going to anything to cover this incident, you can expect blow-back. There should be no effort whatsoever to protect this Velez guy beyond whatever is strictly required by law. He is entitled to a legal defense from a defense attorney, but he is not entitled to any sort of defense of his name (or whatever) by the Government of the United States of America.

In short - Omar Velez should be treated exactly the same as anyone else who has been accused of murder.

One more question. Why hasn't he been charged? What's the time frame? How long can the US military hold Velez as a detainee, without charging him with a crime?

From experience in murder cases, I know there are procedural elements regarding evidence. I'm sure the FBI Special Agents working at the office of the Legal Attache in the US Embassy in Panama are doing their thing. Also, there will be someone (not sure who) in a US military uniform who will be responsible investigating and gathering evidence - with the cooperation of the Panamanian judicial authorities - in order to eventually charge MSG Omar Velez with murder and conduct a trial.

There are many elements of this story that are unfolding as I write this. I'll continue to provide follow-up information as it develops. And of course, I'm working my own angles...

  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
View Printable Version

US Southern Command Issues Press Release (US Army MSG Omar Velez - Murder Suspect - Panama Case)

Expat Tales An Army soldier assigned to the US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) is under military custody on suspicion of being responsible for the death of a young Panamanian woman, whose body was found near a shooting range used for training.

The Southern Command issued a press release expressing "sincere regret" over the woman's death. SOUTHCOM is cooperating with the Panamanian judicial and law enforcement authorities in the investigation of the case. They call for "this tragedy to be fully investigated" and the US military promises to take "all corresponding actions" resulting from the investigation.

"We are cooperating with Panamanian law enforcement authorities in the investigation, and we want to assure the government and the Panamanian people that the U.S. military authorities will thoroughly investigate this tragedy and take all appropriate action," says the press release that was published on the Southern Command's website.

Last Thursday, the office of the Attorney General issued a press release reporting that on 23 June "the lifeless body of a woman was discovered, on a farm near the bridge over the Guararé river, where firearms training was taking place."

The site of the discovery is located in the province of Los Santos, 284 kilometers west of Panama City.  

The victim was identified by relatives as Vanesa Rodriguez, 25, a native of the western province of Chiriqui and a resident of Panama City.

"A member of the U.S. Army, who is now in custody at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, USA, is a suspect in this case," says the Southern Command statement. (Panama America)

Editor's Comment: Why the FUCK is everyone tip-toeing around using the name of US Army Master Sergeant Omar Velez as the suspect in this case? When the Panamanian National Police first arrested him - while standing over the body of his dead girlfriend next to a bag of lime, a shovel, a pickaxe, and a freshly dug grave - they released his name as the person who was arrested, and identified him as the suspect in the case.

Since then, the Panamanian Attorney General's office issued a statement clarifying for the Panamanian people and the family members of the victim that the suspect (Velez) was working for the US Embassy at the time, so therefore he could not be arrested. No sweat, he was arrested by the US Army, flown back to Ft Bragg, and he's now in custody there. Great.

The US Southern Command finally issued a press release designed to further reduce anxiety over the concept that Velez might not face justice. And of course to express their regret and remorse. Note - that this statement was issued only after I pointed out that the US government and the US Embassy in Panama had remained silent (until then). Whatever, they finally have started to to the right thing, and communicate a little.

But still it makes no sense to try to protect - what - Omar Velez's privacy? When a murder suspect is arrested in the United States does any prosecutor anywhere try to protect his name? Don't they stand up in front of the media and proclaim to the world they've arrested a suspect in the brutal murder case of (whatever)? It makes no sense. I don't get it. In short, WTF?

Speaking as a retired Master Sergeant myself - military guys simply hate it when "one of their own" makes some really stupid decision and does something criminal - whatever it is. I've had friends of mine go down in legal flames for making some bone headed mistakes while serving in the military. But serving in the military is all about levels of trust, personal responsibility, emotional maturity, and making the right decision in the heat of the moment. This guy apparently blew it. And while that's too damn bad (for both him and his victim) it makes no sense for anyone, on any side, to try to "protect" his identity, or to keep his name out of the papers. In short, fuck that guy...

Most civilians don't understand that military members are held to a higher standard. MSG Omar Velez will be held accountable under the US Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). There's an obvious reason for this. If a civilian doesn't show up for his job at Walmart, he's fired. If a military member doesn't show up for his job, that's desertion. A civilian can't get sent to prison for falling asleep on the job, but a soldier can go to prison for falling asleep while manning a forward observation post in a war zone. Things are different for military guys, in many ways.

But murder is murder. Guys in the military are trained to kill. We have guns. We usually have physical superiority over civilians due to strength training and regularly scheduled exercise. We are trained in hand-to-hand combat and martial arts. Military guys have a "keep hitting it until it's gone" mentality sometimes. And when a military guy kills a hostile in a war zone, he gets a medal. We are trained to be lethal, and we are expected to know when to pull the trigger (and of course, when not to...)

Refer to the UCMJ Article 118: Murder - Any person subject to this chapter who, without justification or excuse, unlawfully kills a human being, when he- (1) has a premeditated design to kill; (2) intends to kill or inflict great bodily harm; (3) is engaged in an act which is inherently dangerous to another and evinces a wanton disregard of human life; or (4) is engaged in the perpetration or attempted perpetration of burglary, sodomy, rape, robbery, or aggravated arson; is guilty of murder, and shall suffer such punishment as a court-martial may direct, except that if found guilty under clause (1) or (4), he shall suffer death or imprisonment for life as a court-martial may direct.

And Article 119: Manslaughter - (a) Any person subject to this chapter who, with an intent to kill or inflict great bodily harm, unlawfully kills a human being in the heat of sudden passion caused by adequate provocation is guilty of voluntary manslaughter and shall be punished as a court-martial may direct. (b) Any person subject to this chapter who, without an intent to kill or inflict great bodily harm, unlawfully kills a human being- (1) by culpable negligence; or (2) while perpetrating or attempting to perpetrate an offense, other than those named in clause (4) of section 918 of this title (article 118), directly affecting the person; is guilty of involuntary manslaughter and shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.

MSG Omar Velez will probably say he got into an argument with his girlfriend, got mad, hit her in the face, and she died. If there was no intent to kill her then that's manslaughter. The key words being "in the heat of sudden passion caused by adequate provocation."

But still, why dance around the identity of the suspect? What wasn't his name included in this Southcom press release? Do they have the photo the victim posted on her Facebook page, of her handling a weapon on the same range where MSG Omar Velez was training Panamanians how to shoot? You know, the same place where he was digging her grave?

You won't find me dancing around this asshole, trying to protect anything. If it turns out the victim is someone else, then so be it. As of right now, the Panamanian National Police released his name as being the suspect. Until I hear otherwise, it's on him. Everything else that's flowed since has been in sync with the initial assessment, so I have to assume it's correct. And I also have to assume the US Army, the US government, SOUTHCOM, and everyone else is - for some unknown reason - trying to protect something by not uttering the name of Master Sergeant Omar Velez. Thankfully, I do not drink from the same pitcher of kool-aid as those idiots...

  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks