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Monday, September 23 2019 @ 02:21 pm EDT

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Hightstown Man Charged with Child Pornography Possession

Expat TalesBy Katrina Rossos - A Hightstown man is having his initial court appearance on Wednesday, May 8 on child pornography charges in New Jersey. Fredy Arbito, 31, was arrested in Panama and returned to the United States in early April where he was arrested by special agents from the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced Wednesday.

According to court documents, Arbito was knowingly in possession of at least three images of child pornography as early as Jan. 28 of this year. Emails of a sexual nature were reportedly sent by Arbito to a 14-year-old girl in Ecuador, court documents said. The information was traced back to an account at Arbito’s address in Hightstown.

The criminal complaint against Arbito said that he allegedly struck up an online friendship over MSN Messenger service with the 14-year-old girl while posing as a young girl living in Colombia. The friendship began in July 2011. They communicated over email, video chats, and Facebook and the young girl appeared nude during some of the video chat sessions which Arbito allegedly sent to some of the girls’ friends. The IP address from these emails were traced to Arbito’s home in Hightstown.

Along with pictures of the young girl from Ecuador, other various images of child pornography were found on Arbito’s computer equipment. Possessing child pornography carries a maximum potential penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. He is scheduled to make his initial appearance Wednesday afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Tonianne J. Bongiovanni in Trenton federal court. (

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Jabez GM (Sponagle) arrested in Panama

Expat TalesBY Joann Alberstat - The mastermind of an alleged multimillion-dollar Ponzi scheme has been arrested in Panama and may be extradited to face fraud and theft charges in Nova Scotia.

Quintin Earl Sponagle, 48, was apprehended April 17, a federal Justice Department spokeswoman confirmed Tuesday.

“The extradition process is underway in Panama,” Carole Saindon said in an email.

Panamanian authorities have already received a request to return Sponagle to Canada, she said.

The Truro native was arrested last month at a shopping mall in Panama City by Interpol officers, according to online news reports in that country.

He was charged in June 2011 in Kentville provincial court with three counts of fraud over $5,000 and one count of theft over $5,000.

The RCMP laid charges after an investigation found that 179 investors with Jabez Financial Services Inc. were allegedly defrauded of more than $4 million.

Sponagle was general manager and principal of Jabez, a company registered in Panama in 2005 but not authorized to trade securities in Nova Scotia.

A spokesman for the RCMP’s financial crime unit in Nova Scotia said police hope Sponagle will be returned to Nova Scotia as soon as possible to answer to the charges.

But Sgt. Tom Murdock couldn’t say how long that might take. “It’s different in every jurisdiction so I can’t comment on it,” he said.

Sponagle is expected to remain in custody pending a ruling on the extradition request, Murdock said.

Sponagle fled to Panama in 2006 after being summoned by the Nova Scotia Securities Commission and authorities have been trying to locate him since then.

Jabez was dissolved in 2007 and about $1.5 million in assets were recovered from its Curacao bank account.

The RCMP and the province asked the federal Justice Department to begin extradition proceedings after the charges were laid two years ago.

A provincial court judge in Windsor issued a warrant for Sponagle’s arrest in August 2011.

The Public Prosecution Service was notified in February 2012 that Ottawa had made the extradition request to Panama, a spokeswoman said Tuesday.

Most Jabez investors are in Nova Scotia, including members of the Rock Church in Lower Sackville. Not all investors believe they were bilked, despite their losses, RCMP and securities regulators have said.

The securities commission alleged that Jabez investors were promised returns of up to 214 per cent. Instead, the money went into the Curacao account controlled by Sponagle.

The commission levied $500,000 fines for securities fraud against Sponagle and colleague Trevor Wayne Hill, the largest fines available at the time. They were also permanently banned from trading in investments in this province.

Securities laws were changed last year to allow larger penalties in illegal stock scams.

Another Rock Church parishioner, Larry Beaton, was handed a $25,000 penalty after reaching a settlement agreement with the commission.

The criminal charges against Sponagle were laid in Kentville because Jabez had an office in the Windsor area. (

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Canadian Citizen Donna Margaret Potuzak - Accidentally Fell To Her Death in Panama City

Expat Tales By Don Winner for - Last night I was contacted by Rob Potuzak. It was his wife Donna Margaret Potuzak who fell from the widow of their 29th floor apartment this week. I've met Rob and Donna on several occassions in the past, but honestly when I first saw the news reporting in the Panamanian press I didn't put the two together.

There were several factual errors in the original Spanish language news reports in the local media. Rob contacted me today in order to set the record straight. Both Rob and Donna have been long-time readers of this website. Rob said "my wife was a real fan of yours and read your site everyday. She was even happier when you went to the video because reading was hard for her." So I asked Rob to send me an email with the facts in order to get it right, and to keep me from accidentally misquoting him. Also, by him sending me the email specifically in order to correct the errors in the earlier Spanish language reporting - knowing it would be published on this website as written - then Rob could be free to include as much information, or withhold as much as he wanted for personal or privacy reasons.

Here's the email Rob sent to me this evening, which I just received.

  • "Dear Don,

    I really don't know how to do without going back to the beginning, and the beginning is July 2, 2010 when I rushed Donna to emergency and she was diagnosed with meningitis which is a bacterial infection of the lining of the brain.

    SHE NEVER HAD A STROKE as was stated in the news article. She was in ICU for two weeks and in total was in hospital for 31 days.

    When she got out she could not speak one word. She could not read one word, she couldn't add 2 + 2, but she could understand everything that was said to her.

    Her brain damage was "aphasia" in english "afascia" in Spanish. It is something that occurs very often in stroke victims as well as victims of severe meningitis. You are trapped in your head, never being able to express your wants or needs while understanding everything that's being said around you. It makes a person kind of crazy.

    When she got out of hospital on August 2, 2010 she had a period of about a month or two where she did a lot of crazy things at our apartment building. She would leave the apartment when I wasn't watching her and go up and down the elevator. I would enlist the two cleaning guys in the building (Raphael and Nelson) to help me find her through use of the security cameras in the elevators and other parts of the building. The only involvement of the SECURITY GUARDS was to watch the cameras and let myself or the two cleaners know where she was.

    We would find her and I would take her back to the apartment. This period lasted only about one and a half months. It was like having an aged parent with dementia.

    During this time she did go out onto the little balcony where the air conditioner compressor sits. She had no fear of heights like some people, she had seen the air conditioner installers work out there. She made a lot noise, because she couldn't speak, but she made no attempt to jump, as people who heard or saw her out here assumed she was about to do. I went to the window that opened on the the little balcony and asked her very nicely to come back in, which after a time she did.


    One time in the first month or two she locked the door from the inside as I took out the garbage. Because I was so afraid of what she might do behind that locked door (she would not let me back in) I enrolled the two cleaners to help me go over the roof in a harness to drop down the the little air conditioner balcony outside our master bedroom, from the top floor a 12 foot drop from the roof.

    Nelson insisted as he was much smaller and younger he would go. Raphael and I eased him down on a heavy steel cable and he went in through the window. He came down stairs and opened the door for me. Donna was watching TV.

    This period ended as I was able to start teaching her to speak again and with the help of a 2 times a week speech therapist. As she was able to start communicating her apparent dementia staring disappearing. After this you met her a number of times and she talked to you reasonably well.

    Everything was fine for quite a well and the in the winter of 2011 / 2012 she started to have serious anxiety problems (no more balcony moments) but she could not sleep. I took her to a psychiatrist and she was on sleeping pills and anti anxiety medication for about five months.

    Finally she told me what her problem was. She told she was scared that, as I was eight years older, if something was to happen to me she would be absolutely lost in Panama with her disability. I said OK we sell out here and move back to Canada and go to live with her mother and sister. The next day her anxiety was gone. She slept well no more pills.

    The third period in this story started about a month ago. We had sold our penthouse and I was making all the arrangements to move to Canada. Every time I completed something new (airlines, hotels, more airlines in Canada to get from Toronto to Regina, hotels, etc.) she got more anxious and scared.

    She keep looking at the weather everyday for Regina (terrible winter, seven feet of snow.) She feared her situation was causing me to move to a place that I would hate for the rest of my life.

    That bring us up to Thursday, May 2, 2013. At 4:00 am I woke to a banging sound like someone slapping a window. I looked over and Donna was not beside me. As I went down the stairs I saw that she was out on the little air conditioner balcony outside of the laundry room. I talked to her nicely, sweet talked her and she then let me help her in (as long as I did get angry with her, which I didn't).


    We went back up to bed and went back to sleep. We got up in the morning, had breakfast and had a normal morning. At about eleven I had to go out to do some chores, bank deposits etc. At about 1:00 PM I called and told her I would be home in 15 minutes. This I believe is when she decided to stage another little scene.

    When I got home I called out to her but got no answer. I looked in all the rooms and finally found the door to the maid's room (which we use as a pantry) closed and locked.

    This door is normally never closed as it is held open with a latch. So I banged on the door until Donna finally answered and I told her to open the door. She did open the door but as I entered she backed away from me. She stepped on a little bench we have against the window (and) hopped up onto the window ledge.

    I saw as this was happening in a split second that the window was wide open. As she hopped up on the window ledge she couldn't halt her momentum. She now had her back to the open window, but as her right hand and arm were pretty much useless from the meningitis she was not able to balance herself.

    She fell backwards out of the window with only her lower legs showing (like someone on a trapeze). I was able to grab her legs before she fell, but all the rest of her was hanging straight down the side of the building. I pulled and I pulled but she was sweaty and my hands were sweaty and finally she just slipped out of my grip. I watched her fall all the way down, something I will see for the rest of my life.

    The maid from the apartment below us looking out her maid's room window saw the whole thing take place. NOBODY INTERVIEWED HER APPARENTLY.

    I believe Donna just wanted to sit on that window ledge, in a dangerous place, and have me sweet talk her back down. SHE DID NOT JUMP, SHE FELL BACKWARDS OUT THE WINDOW.

    It was a terrible tragedy. But, the story in the press makes it even more of a tragedy talking about her like she was some kind of an insane person bent on killing herself all the time. Her mother and her sister could stumble on the article somehow on the internet. All the talk about attempted suicide was bullshit. There's no such thing as attempted suicide from 29 floors up you either are going to jump or not, so those few times she went on the little balconies were NOT SUICIDE ATTEMPTS. They were her way of saying I need help with my anxieties and fears.

    For the record her name was: Donna Margaret Potuzak and she was 59 years old and I loved her with all my heart.

    Regards, Rob

Editor's Comment: Good Lord, Rob. You've been through enough. I'm so sorry for your loss. If there's anything I can do to help, just let me know...

Copyright 2013

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Canadian jumps from 29th floor

Expat TalesA 56 year old Canadian, died yesterday, Thursday, after she jumped from the 29th floor of her apartment in Marina Terrace Building, located in the 42nd Street of Calidonia.

The woman, who was identified as Mrs. Margarette Potusak, had twice attempted suicide unsuccessfully. In both occasions, her spouse, another Canadian, had prevented her from committing suicide.

Information obtained by the staff of Homicides from the Judicial Investigation Department indicates the victim suffered a stroke and even though she had surgery in 2011, her emotional problems never ceased.

Each time the woman went into "shock" she had the urges of jumping from her balcony, and since her husband was not strong enough to carry her, he would ask the building's security guard for help, who would always go upstairs immediately to prevent a tragedy.

Yesterday, at 1:30 pm, the same thing happened, however, her husband did not have enough time to inform the security guards, so she jumped and landed in the social area of the building.

According to the investigation, the recreation area is located on the 5th floor. Her body was heavily crushed by the strong impact.(Critica)

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Global Law Brigade offers help on Panama trip

Expat TalesBy Umang Prabhakar - Twenty-six Cornell students visited Panama over spring break as a part of a global student-led “brigade” to provide basic legal education to underprivileged communities. They focused on Panama’s Darien region, which has high poverty rates and limited access to running water, electricity and government services.

The students educated residents about their basic legal rights, the legal instruments available to them and the procedures guaranteed by the Panamanian constitution in times of dispute or rights violations, said Simon Boehme ’14, co-founder and co-president of Cornell's Global Law Brigade, which organized the service-learning trip in partnership with the international development organization Global Brigades.

Students used counseling workshops, school debates and human rights games to educate children and adults on fundamental rights, divorce, alimony, custody and land disputes. “We also actively coordinated with local lawyers and judges to understand and relay information on local laws and regulations,” said brigade member Winnie Tong ’14. “As Americans, what we see as our natural rights such as freedom of speech and liberty, [Panamanians] barely recognize as their own rights.”

Boehme said that the group’s experience in Panama was a crucial life lesson for the Cornell students, who came to better appreciate the value and importance of natural resources, community life and sustainability.

Due to lack of information and a sense of powerlessness, Panamanians were disenfranchised from such state services as a water supply. They suffered losses in land disputes they could not satisfactorily resolve. Boehme and Tong hope that their legal education program empowered the people and gave them the confidence to seek legal recourse.

The students also delved into Panamanian culture and observed their lifestyle. “Here, we’re always trying to maximize efficiency and use of time. There, they do what they can do in a day, and truly enjoy whatever they do,” said Haejin Hwang ’15. She said fast-paced, work-efficiency-oriented American culture could learn a few things from the relaxed pace of life in Panama.

Thaddeus Talbot ’15, who hails from Panama, was “interested in seeing family members and friends in Panama, but also to see the economic, agricultural and social progress of Panama since I last saw it at age 7.” He said he also wanted to apply “my knowledge of human and labor rights to help bring redevelopment” from his ILR School training.

Talbot, for whom the trip was personally and academically gratifying, said his time in Panama “invigorated my passion for civic engagement. It humbled me in a unique and personal way. I share this experience with Cornellians on campus and encourage them to get involved overseas, to be frugal with resources, and to cherish every opportunity presented.”

Tong concurred: “It was a great learning and deeply humbling experience,” she said.

Umang Prabhakar ’13 is a student writer intern at the Chronicle.

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American Fugitive Expat Sage Million Hiding in Volcan

Expat Tales By DON WINNER for - An American expatriot named Sage Million, 58, wanted by judicial authorities in Hawaii on an outstanding bench warrant and for questioning in connection with a recently reported sexual assault of a minor, is living in a rented property in Volcan, province of Chiriqui, in Panama near the border with Costa Rica.

A report with the title Police Seek Puna Man Regarding Possible Sexual Assault appeared in the Hawaiian press on 29 February 2012. The report highlights the efforts of local law enforcement officials to enlist the public to gather tips on the whereabouts of Sage Million. There is a $1,000 reward, and the report contains telephone numbers for the detectives who are working on the case.

Before moving to Panama with his wife and daughter, Sage Million was last known to have been living in the Ainaloa subdivision in Puna. He is described as Caucasian, 5-foot-7, 140 pounds with short brown hair balding at the front, brown eyes, a medium build and a light complexion.

  • Detectives with the Juvenile Aid Section are continuing this investigation.

  • Police ask that anyone with information on Million’s location call Detective Daylan Asuncion at (808) 961-8843 or the Police Department’s non-emergency line at (808) 935-3311.

  • Tipsters who prefer to remain anonymous may call Crime Stoppers at (808) 961-8300 in Hilo or (808) 329-8181 in Kona and may be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000. Crime Stoppers is a volunteer program run by ordinary citizens who want to keep their community safe. Crime Stoppers doesn’t record calls or subscribe to caller ID. All Crime Stoppers information is kept confidential.

Sage Million was also featured on a local "most wanted" program in March 2012: Hawaii Island’s Most Wanted Airing on Na Leo.

This is a link to the original press release issued by the law enforcement authorities in Hawaii, which was the source of the local news reporting issued on the same day.

According to his LinkedIn Profile, Sage Million uses the title of "Doctor" or "Dr." He describes himself as the Owner of a company called the "Sovereignty Intelligence Service" and "Hawaiian Islands Alternative Medicine".

Sage Million doesn't like the press reporting about him, and I suspect he won't like this article very much either. A website called published this article on 29 February 2012, the day the local police issued their press release. In the comments section of that article a person named Brian Jordan posted: "February 29th, 2012 at 5:05 pm Does anyone know the whereabouts of his daughter TRUE! I frequently asked about the mother and he said she traveled or was a flight attendant. I hope TRUE is in CPS care until this is sorted out. I never want to believe bad press. Sage seemed like a High IQ Inventor and like most geniuses I chalked his odd behavior off to High IQ." Then a full ten months later, Sage Million posted a response: "December 29th, 2012 at 4:47 am this site is being monitored for for copyright infringement, slander and internet fraud. police corruption on the big island has been reported to the FBI. Tiffany Edwards Hunt will be charged with Copyright infringement, Slander and internet fraud."

Sage Million also calls himself a "Reverend" (Rev.) as evidenced in this document he tried to serve on a Circuit Court Judge, State Prosecuting Attorney, and the Chief Court Administrator of the Third Circuit Court in Hawaii. He actually posted all of these credentials online, which includes a "Doctor of Metaphysics" from the Universal Life Church, as well as a "Doctor of Philosophy in Religion" - also from the Universal Life Church - as well as "Credentials of Ministry" and a License issued by the State of Hawaii to perform marriages. Powerful stuff.

Sage Million is one of those "sovereign man" guys who calls himself a "world citizen." He recently managed to get himself into sticky situation on the border between Panama and Costa Rica. He entered Panama as a tourist on a US passport with an entry stamp dated 5 August 2012, so his 180 days was up on 5 February 2013. His plan was to pay his $55 fine for having overstayed on the tourist visa, enter Costa Rica on his US passport, and then turn around and return to Panama using his "World Service Authority (WSA)" passport. Things didn't turn out so well.

Sage Million stamped out of Panama and entered Costa Rica on his US passport, without any problems. However when he tried to depart Costa Rica to return to Panama, he was detained by Costa Rican authorities when he presented his "WSA" passport. They apparently didn't appreciate it when he declared that he "was a sovereign Secured Party Creditor and a world citizen of the world government of world citizens." So they began to investigate a little deeper.

Sage Million entered into a discussion with the fine people who issued him the "WSA" passport as he reported to them on this incident that occurred on the border between Costa Rica and Panama. Specifically;

  • 18) Is there something about what you have been doing in Costa Rica or Panama that may have caused you to be singled out that you have not told us about?

  • "the entire issue was trying to get the WSA passport stamped. In both countries. I never left the immigrations area. except for the 100 yards between offices, just for the record I have no vices,

So, it's official. Sage Million does not consider an outstanding bench warrant for his arrest and a press release from the law enforcement authorities in Hawaii - seeking him "for questioning in connection with a recently reported sexual assault of a minor" - to be a "vice." Yeah, just maybe, that could have been the reason why the immigration officials didn't want to let him in. Just maybe. It was either that, or they didn't want to recognize his "WSA" passport.

And how did that incident end? In Sage Million's own words:

  • "other information left out:

  • upon being released from CR. I was told to leave CR due to the fact I signed in and out of CR. I was directed back to Panama. I tried to reenter panama. I was informed the US passport does not have three months minimum to have a legal stamp for entry back into Panama. this I knew to be a fact. so I offered the WSA and travel document. several officers began to make calls, my attorney, immigrations in David, including a helper from the attorneys office. after an hour outside the windows. I was asked to enter the locked area. both passports where taken. after 20 minutes, an Panamanian officer asked me how I got a Costa Rica entry stamp when the Passport only had two months left. I explained I only had the intent to check in and out in one hour. reenter and validate the WSA. The Officer agreed that was a good plan if he was in the same condition as I was in. the Panamanian immigration officer clearly wanted to help me. so he took me all the way back to Costa Rica immigrations. the officer pleaded with costa rica to honor the WSA, CR refused. the Panamanian officer then brought to the intention of the CR officer the fact the Costa Rica had unlawfully stamped a us passport with only two months left on the US passport, the Costa Rica Officer, took the US passport from the Panamanian officer and stamped reversed the stamps, basically I was denied entry into Costa Rica, even though I had a valid stamp of entry. the Panamanian officer took me back to immigrations in panama. where I was directed to sign a confession contract stating that I was not harmed and that no one tried to get money from me.

    I was then released and sent back toward Costa Rica. stuck between two countries in a suit and tie, in a rain storm. I had to resort to other means to get home.I do not wish to post what happened there after, as you already know What took place after the fact."

Sounds to me like he's currently illegal in Panama. He could not get into Costa Rica (on 28 February 2013) because his US passport was going to expire in two months. He checked out of Panama and paid his $55 fine for having overstayed his tourist visa. Then he could not get into Costa Rica. He also could not get back into Panama (legally.) Both countries refused to accept his "WSA" passport. So he was "stuck" on the border and he had to "resort to other means" to get home, presumably by breaking the law and sneaking back into Panama. His US passport apparently expires in April 2013. Time is apparently running out for the good Doctor (slash) Reverend (slash) World Citizen (slash) fugitive.

Other Stuff: Sage Million threw up a Travel Blog profile in which he describes himself as "Sailor,HVAC mechanical engineer, commercial salvor diver. Celestial navigation, shipwright. see this old blog, copy/paste tab my profile callsign: MP00013521, my vessel is in the bone yard. 6 years of hard service. family now in panama city.panama. Sailing experence california to panama,colombia, Hawaii islands, Tonga, marshall islands. sailed south east Alaska 10 years. Sage is available to deckhand any type of vessel anywhere, anytime,anyhow on the planet. panama cell: 507 605 65669 also seeking old hull to rebuild in panama"

That's enough. You get the picture. There's a bunch more (crap) out there, but I've already wasted enough time on this. I'm sure by now there have been a whole raft of calls made to the authorities in Hawaii. When I called they said "is this about the fact that he's in Panama?" So yeah, they know he's here, so you might be splitting the $1,000 bucks. Why do these guys keep coming here? Don't they read the news? Don't they know the Panamanian authorities regularly and routinely scoop dudes like this up and flip them back over the border? Oh yeah, no vices. I forgot...

Copyright 2013 by Don Winner for Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.

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An Update On The Death of Lee Lamb in Gorgona

Expat TalesBy DON WINNER for - I received the following yesterday via email: "Hi Don:

Your facts regarding Lee Lamb are almost accurate. He was 65 years old. He was staying in the GOF Gorgona Ocean Front Condo. Lee had been renting our condo in the building. He had spent one year in another condo unit, in the same building. He had moved to our condo in mid March. He had lived on the other side of Panama in the Bocos Del Toro area. He had a yacht anchored there for a number of years, and lost his wife three years ago. He sold his yacht, and moved into our condo 13 months ago.

Lee has a sister, and a brother, and a nephew, arriving from Georgia USA today. We always found Lee to be an honorable and honest man. He and his sister spoke almost daily on Skype, and I am sure he will be missed by all who new him. We have a good friend Pablo Rodriquez and his wife are looking after things for us, as we are back in Canada. The homicide detectives met with Pablo, and took finger prints, and a lot of pictures of the condo. After their investigation they determine if it was a suicide, or homicide. No suicide note was left behind. Pablo will meet with Lee's family, and we will have to decide what belonged to Lee, and make sure his family gets all of his things.

cheers, be safe. (AF)."

Copyright 2013 by Don Winner for

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American Expat Apparently Commits Suicide in Gorgona

Expat TalesBy DON WINNER for - An American citizen named Marion Lee Lamb apparently committed suicide last week on the beach in front of the Oceanfront Gorgona hotel, next to the Pacific Ocean in the Republic of Panama.

Local residents alerted the authorities to the man's body. The police discovered the body with a gunshot wound to the head and a weapon laying nearby. They found his body in front the hotel where he had been staying for quite some time.

Initial investigations indicate a strong possibility that Lamb might have taken his own life. His wife had recently passed away. He was suffering from health problems, had several strokes, and had been recently diagnosed with cancer. About a week prior he had also wrecked his car. He was in his 60's. The authorities continue to investigate this case.

Copyright 2013 by Don Winner for Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Don't forget to follow Panama Guide on Twitter. Salud.

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American Couple From Texas Found Dead In Their Home - Boquete, Panama

Expat Tales By DON WINNER for - An American couple originally from Texas who recently moved to Panama were found dead in the house they were renting in the town of Boquete, in the province of Chiriqui, Panama.

Ricky Donaldson, 54, and his wife Sherry Lynn Donaldson, 52, had been renting the home since January of this year. None of the doors to the house showed signs of forced entry. Their bodies had no physical signs indicating any sort of trauma or violent death.

In March 2011 Ricky Donaldson was active on Internet chat groups actively searching for information about possibly moving to Costa Rica. He lists his hometown as Forney, Texas.

At this point the Panamanian authorities are investigating to determine the cause of death, and no further information is available.

Copyright 2013 by Don Winner for Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.

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Rumors About An Arrest In The Murder Of Georgia Tripp in Volcan

Expat Tales By DON WINNER for - There are some rumors swirling around the members of the English speaking community of expatriates in the area of Volcan in Chiriqui about the possibility of an arrest of the primary suspect in the murder of 73 year old American citizen Georgia Tripp in Panama.

Georgia Tripp was murdered - strangled to death - on Thursday, 14 March 2013. Her body was discovered by her neighbor (who is also her landlord) behind her house located in the Brisas del Norte area of Volcan, in the province of Chiriqui, Panama. He reported his discovery to the police, who responded to the scene and began their investigation.

Yesterday there were a bunch of police cars in the area of Georgia's house. Someone saw the police presence and apparently jumped to the conclusion an arrest has been made in this case.

I just spoke to people in the community who are closest to the case, as well as my high ranking contacts in the Panamanian National Police. As of right now no arrest has been made. Not yet. That's a fact. So, this is nothing more than a rumor that's not true. Not yet.

I know the people who live in the area, as well as Georgia's friends and family, are highly tuned and attentive to this case. I would ask that when people are reporting information (especially via public forums and chat boards) to focus on what is known - just the facts. In this case it would have been true and accurate (and a fact) to say "there were a bunch of police cars at Georgia's house yesterday" (stop/break). And then if you're going to speculate, please identify it as speculation. "Maybe there was an arrest. I don't know that, just speculating." That would be helpful. Spreading rumors and speculation is not. And kudos to those who responded by saying "chill, when it happens, we will know about it." Good call.

There's also a whole lot of spurious noise going on right now that's nothing more than a distraction. The normal "Don Winner Haters" are (for some reason) injecting themselves into the situation and ranting, mostly about me and my reporting on this case. I have no idea why, except to attribute their reaction - as usual - to mental illness. They are completely out of the loop, uninformed, irrelevant to this case, and they don't have my contacts in the National Police. They are apparently just making noise for the sake of making noise, to draw attention to themselves. Take it for what it's worth.

I make it my habit to not talk about the suspect in a case and the technical details of the investigation unless there's a full blown manhunt going on. Like, in the case of the murders of Don North and Jean Pierre Bouhard by Javier Martin, the suspect was on the run. He had actually moved to the Darien and purchased horses. His plan was to travel over land to escape Panama into Colombia. Getting his name and face and the details of that case on the television news (thanks to my buddy at TVN Magda Maxwell) made the difference. Javier Martin was arrested just hours after the news piece aired at 12:00 noon on channel 2 TVN in Santa Fe in the Darien, when the clerk at the hostel where he was staying recognized him and called the police. That was a different situation.

Or like when "Wild Bill" was identified as the primary suspect in the Bocas del Toro murders. Getting the details about that case into the news media in Panama, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua ultimately resulted in their arrests. Once again, they were recognized in Northern Costa Rica by the guy who rented them a room. He notified the authorities. They were still able to get into Nicaraguan territory even though they had been stopped by Costa Rican authorities at the border. But that was a manhunt situation, and once again the press helped to get them caught.

I have additional details on two other cases - Yvonne Baldelli and Ed Moynan - that I'm sitting on for now, until the authorities make an arrest. Patience is a virtue. And, I would not want to do anything to screw up an investigation.

In this case the detectives of the Direction of Judicial Investigation (DIJ) and the investigators working for the prosecutor from the Public Ministry who is handling the case are looking hard at their primary suspect. I know a lot of those details which I am not sharing at this point - until an arrest has been made. The detectives and investigators are working to develop solid forensic evidence that will stand up in court, and withstand the scrutiny to result in a conviction and sentencing. They are taking their time because the clock starts running when the cuffs go on. Oh, and one more thing. My high level source once again confirmed what I had reported earlier about the cause of death in the autopsy report as strangulation.

Anyway, for what it's worth, there's an update. If and when an arrest actually occurs, I'll let you know as soon as I know.

One more thing. Please do not post this article to any public message boards. If you are a subscriber and want to share it with a close friend or someone who you know is a friend of Georgia's then copy and send the text via email. If anyone else wants to read my articles, then they can subscribe. Thanks for understanding. I'm trying to starve the trolls.

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Copyright 2013 by Don Winner for

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Niels Hartvig-Nielsen Now Making Death Threats Against Me And My Family

Expat Tales By DON WINNER for - There's this dirtbag who was running around here in Panama for awhile named Niels Hartvig-Nielsen. I had a couple of problems with this guy, and rather than going over all of that old ground again, if you are interested you can read it for yourself in this article I wrote and published about him in 2009:

In that article I simply highlighted the apparently conflicting positions taken by Niels Hartvig-Nielsen. In his own words, he was simultaneously trying to sell a property for $2.3 million dollars, while at the same time posting all over a bunch of Internet websites that Panama is a "shithole" - among other gems.

Niels Hartvig-Nielsen doesn't appreciate that article very much. Now when anyone does a simple Google search of his name, it comes up as the #1 response, every time. He's been threatening to sue me for years, but of course he won't bother because all I did was use his own words, which he has since admitted to writing. The simple fact of the matter is - he was trying to sell a piece of property for $2.3 million dollars, while at the same time he was calling Panama a "shithole." That's the truth and it's a fact that might be sort of hard to argue or defend in a Panamanian court of law.

Now any normal or rational or logical sort of person might leave well enough alone, but not this guy. There's actually a sick little group of Don Winner hating wackos who talk about little else. Niels Hartvig-Nielsen has now escalated his attacks against me to the point of direct death threats;

  • On Monday, 11 March 2013 - Niels Hartvig Nielsen started a threat with the title "not very safe in Panama these days" talking about how DNA testing confirmed the identity of Ed Moynan's remains.

  • Someone responded (talking about Ed Moynan) saying "The guy hung out with racketeers, got into altercations and made a big point of telling everyone how rich and influential he was. Those are the sorts of things that can get you killed down here, even if we are nowhere near like Mexico."

  • Niels Hartvig-Nielsen responded with "Makes you wonder how it is that Don Winner still lives."

  • Someone else posted (at an earlier date): "Does anyone know Don Winners home address? or perhaps a way to find it ? There must be a pile of people like to have that little ditty"

  • On Wednesday, 20 March 2013, someone posted "...and perhaps (snip) has his current private address for delivering uncle donnie a present, he would appreciate and love for a very long time"

  • In response, today Niels Hartvig-Nielsen posted my home and office address to a public forum, and questioned the group to try to determine my wife's physical location.

I take this as a direct threat against myself and my family. I am responding by reporting this Internet activity to both the authorities at the US Embassy, the Canadian Embassy in Panama because Niels Hartvig-Nielsen is a Canadian citizen, as well as the Panamanian law enforcement and judicial authorities. This is not the first time I've received death threats and I know exactly how to respond. Niels Hartvig-Nielsen is just another tiny little man with no honor or morals or values, who wanted to elicit a response from me. Taken out of context, he just posted my home address. Taken in context, it's a death threat. He's hoping someone will be mad enough or crazy enough to take action against me or my family.

Meanwhile, Niels Hartvig-Nielsen continues to post outlandish and crazy things on Internet message boards. Once again his own words do far more to describe his makeup and personality than I ever could;

  • On Saturday, 2 March 2013 Niels Hartvig-Nielsen wrote: "nah, Panama is a shit hole, I am on record. Go ahead and ask that "Legend in his own mind" Don Weiner. And I admit - it is true. I would not have much good to say about Panama. Notwithstanding the good friends I left behind there of course. And I did make a pile of money there so that was good. But the best day of my life was the day I left."

  • On Tuesday, 12 March 2013 Niels Hartvig-Nielsen wrote: "hey knackers, I am NOT prejudiced, I hate jews, niggers, blacks, whites, dickless transvestits, I am an equal ooportunist I dislike the whole human race"

So congratulations, Niels Hartvig-Nielsen. Here's another article to reside on the Internet for all eternity. You are a gutless punk - my toenail clippings have more honor in them than you. Hopefully once again people will find this article and see (through your own words) the sort of "person" you are.

What an utter slimeball this guy is. At least he left Panama, that's the good news.

Copyright 2013 by Don Winner for Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Don't forget to follow Panama Guide on Twitter. Salud.

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Details Unfolding as Investigation Into The Murder of Georgia Tripp Continues in Panama

Expat Tales By DON WINNER for - Do you know exactly who murdered the American expat Georgia Tripp at noon last Thursday behind her house in Brisas del Norte in Volcan, Chiriqui, along with all of the other details of how it went down (who, what, when, where, why, and how)? Neither do I.

The initial reports from the crime scene related by people who were there indicated Georgia Tripp had apparently been stabbed to death. Most of these witnesses were members of the English speaking expat community who arrived after the police officers, detectives from the DIJ and investigators from the prosecutor's office of the Public Ministry were already on the scene. They told me what they saw with their own eyes, and what the investigators and detectives were saying among themselves. I understand it was already getting dark by the time they were ready to move the body.

The person who made the observation in the dark using a flashlight, who said there "apparently" was a stab wound to the back of Georgia's neck, was the woman who works for the office of the medical examiner in David. They also found a bread knife under Georgia's right leg. So as a result of those observations the story became "she was apparently stabbed to death" based on her observations in the field. And because of those initial observations the police also started to handle and investigate Georgia's death as a murder, and not an accident or death by natural causes.

Then on Monday afternoon I got a call from a highly placed police source who had received the official autopsy report. It said the cause of death was strangulation. Someone had choked the life out of Georgia, and then she fell to the ground. There was an injury to the back of her head where she fell to the ground, resulting in some bleeding. The autopsy report also said Georgia had not been stabbed, and a stab wound was not the cause of death. Huh, go figure.

Now, to be clear - I have not seen a copy of the autopsy report myself. I'm relaying the information and details that were provided to me, as they were provided to me. In short, I'm doing my job.

And one more thing - the people who made the initial observations at the crime scene are the same ones who conducted the autopsy and prepared the report. So, if there's a contradiction between those two reports, then they are contradicting themselves.

Then last night I received this via email: "People who were at the scene early think your strangle story is off base. They say there was no sign of strangulation and plenty of sign of stabbing. Perhaps your police source was looking at the wrong file."

First of all, there's no chance whatsoever that my police source was "looking at the wrong file." I've also had other telephone conversations with people who were at the scene, and they said the autopsy report was "surprising" based on what they saw and heard while they were there, when the body was being recovered. I guess if I had to pick between the two, I would put more faith in the autopsy report for all of the normal and obvious reasons.

In addition, the autopsy was conducted by a trained and experienced expert under bright lights and controlled conditions. The coroner in David has probably examined hundreds of murder victims and conducted God knows how many autopsies. He conducted the autopsy in the lab, with good lighting, and with all the time in the world. So you have an experienced and trained expert under controlled conditions who is doing his job. I have a high degree of confidence in the results of the autopsy report.

Compare that to the observations made in the field, at night, under less than perfect conditions. The observations made in the field were then relayed to the untrained and inexperienced civilians, which was then relayed to me. The woman who did the quick field examination accurately relayed her observations to those who were present. They told me what they heard, and I wrote about it in my reporting. It was the best information available at the time.

And consider this - we have all watched enough television programs like "CSI" and "Criminal Minds" to know police detectives and investigators are often surprised by the results of an autopsy report, and those results can change the course of an investigation. That's why they do them, right?

Anyway, you don't know who killed Georgia Tripp, and neither do I. We don't know how it was done, and we now know the autopsy report indicates she was strangled to death. What matters is this - all of this information, the initial reports from the field and the autopsy report, is now in the official case file being developed by the prosecutor. They are working hard to figure out who did this and arrest the killer. And yes, she was murdered.

We members of the English speaking community of expatriates are watching these events unfold and as usual the information comes dribbling out in bits and pieces. When I first started working on the "Wild Bill" case I though I was chasing a guy named "William Adolfo Cortez" and his real name - William Dathan Holbert - didn't come out until he was arrested in Nicaragua. So the bottom line is that it's actually common for the story to change and evolve and for the detail and clarity to improve and resolve over time. Because guess what? If we all knew the whole story of exactly what happened to Georgia, then the murderer would already be behind bars, right?

Just take a deep breath and try to relax a little bit. Try to have faith and confidence in the Panamanian law enforcement and justice systems (I know that's hard), and know they are doing their jobs. Don't get so wrapped up by the ebb and flow of the details and information as it comes out. If you've been following along, at first there was speculation that Georgia might have had a stroke or a heart attack. Then maybe she suffered an accident or fell on her own knife or something. Then she was apparently stabbed to death. Now it looks like she was strangled. The available information changes over time. We are dealing with a changing data set, and it's as simple as that.

And of course the normal flock of "Don Winner haters" are slinging stones and making as much noise as possible. They are apparently unable to grasp this most fundamental of concepts, that during a murder investigation the available information will naturally change and evolve and improve over time. Whatever - I'm way too busy to care about what the crazy barking dogs in the basement are trying to say - who's got time for that?

I personally expect there will be an arrest in this case soon. I would also like to express my heartfelt condolences to all of Georgia's friends and family.

Copyright 2013 by Don Winner for

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Breaking: Georgia Tripp Was Strangled To Death - Not Stabbed

Expat TalesBy DON WINNER for - According to a highly placed and impeccably reliable source in the Panamanian National Police, the American Georgia Tripp who was found murdered in front of her home in the Brisas del Norte section of Volcan in the province of Chiriqui was actually strangled to death, and was not stabbed as originally reported.

The police received the official autopsy report today from the medical examiner. According to that report, Georgia Tripp was not stabbed and she did not have any stab wounds on her body, despite the fact that a bread knife was found under her right leg. Initial reports from the scene indicated there was a stab wound to the back of her neck on the right side, but it now turns out that those observations were incorrect. She did have an injury to the back of her head, consistent with falling to the ground after she was strangled to death. But the cause of death was clearly established in the autopsy report - she was strangled to death and not stabbed.

It's common for the information to evolve, develop, and clarify over time as the police detectives from the Department of Judicial Investigation (DIJ) and the investigators from the office of the prosecutor of the Public Ministry do their jobs and gather additional information and intelligence. In this case they now have the official autopsy report in their hands, which will certainly change the course of the investigation once again. That's how it goes.

I have some additional details regarding this case which I am withholding to protect the integrity of the investigation until an arrest is made. I expect an arrest will be made shortly, either today or tomorrow. The Panamanian authorities are handling this case as a murder and they have a primary suspect. Stay tuned for additional information and updates as this case continues to develop.

Copyright 2013 by Don Winner for Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.

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Investigating The Death Of An American Citizen in Volcan

Expat TalesOfficials of the Public Ministry (MP) are investigating the cause of death of an American citizen.

Georgia Clerk (Note: See Editor's Comments), 72 years old, was found lifeless in the yard of her house by a neighbor.

The citizen had an open wound on the right lateral side of the body. At the site authorities also found a kitchen knife under the deceased.

The incident took place in the Brisas del Norte neighborhood in Volcan, Bugaba district. (Prensa)

Editor's Comment: It's common for the Panamanian media to get the names wrong in their reporting. Usually their sources are low level local police officers, who might have literally heard the name pronounced one time. The victim in this case is Georgia Tripp. She was 73 years old. And the stab wound was to the right side of the back of her neck, not to the "right lateral side of the body."

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Funeral Saturday for former Ottawa man killed in Panama

Expat TalesBy Meghan Hurley - OTTAWA — A funeral will be held Saturday for a former Ottawa man found dead in Panama this month.

A visitation will be held Saturday for Ed Moynan, 68, at the Daley Family Funeral Home on Bank Street in Metcalfe followed by a service at 3 p.m., according to a Facebook posting.

A lieu of flowers, the family has requested donations to the Canadian Mental Health Association.

Moynan went missing on Nov. 8, although it was two days before he was reported missing, since his wife, Louise, was visiting Ottawa at the time.

After she learned of the disappearance, she returned to their home in the coastal city of Coronado, and found worrying signs, like his glasses, which he needed to wear at all times, broken on the floor.

After a nearly four-month investigation, police found human remains in a suitcase on March 1.

Panamanian police informed the family that the body was that of Moynan after DNA testing was done.

There is still no information on a motive for the killing. Moynan’s wallet and identification were found inside his house. (

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American Expat Georgia Tripp Murdered in Volcan, Panama

Expat TalesBy DON WINNER for - Georgia Tripp, a 73 year old American woman who has been living in (or near) the Brisas del Norte development in the town of Volcán, district of Bugaba, province of Chiriqui in the Republic of Panama for approximately six years, was found murdered in her front yard at noon yesterday with a single stab wound to the back of her neck.

A neighbor, who was also Georgia's landlord and the owner and resident of an adjoining property, saw her lying face-up in the yard and he notified the police.

It is estimated the murder occurred at approximately 12:00 noon or 12:30 pm yesterday afternoon. The police, detectives, and representatives from the prosecutor's office of the Public Ministry were on the scene by 2:30 pm.

Georgia had a single stab (puncture) wound to the right side of the back of her neck. When the body was first discovered there was some speculation she might have also suffered some sort of blunt force trauma to the back of her head. However upon further examination of the body it turned out to be a pooling of blood that apparently came from the stab wound, and there was no indication of a blunt force trauma to the back of her head.

Police detectives discovered a knife under Georgia's right leg. She was laying face-up with her leg's crossed at the ankles. She was still wearing her glasses, although they were slightly out of place. There was also a drawer open in the kitchen where Georgia kept her kitchen knives, but so far it has not been confirmed that the murder weapon came from her kitchen, or if the knife found under her body was actually the weapon that caused the fatal wound.

Georgia was not a very rich person. She was not known to keep large amounts of cash money in her house, nor did she have much by the way of expensive jewelry or other types of valuables most often sought by thieves. The most valuable thing in the house was probably her laptop computer, and that was still in the house when the detectives arrived. So, at first blush, robbery does not seem to be the motive for this attack. Obviously, the authorities are still investigating.

Georgia did not have any steady domestic employees, such as a regular maid or gardener. She did have a couple of girls who would help her with the housework about once a week or so. There was one young boy who would help with yard work but she had not used him in the past six months or so.

Georgia did not have any family members living in Panama, and her son lives in California. A friend called him yesterday to notify him of what had happened.

Georgia was an active member of her community. She loved to dance. She participated in the Volcan Quilters organization. While the authorities continue to investigate this most recent attack against a member of the English speaking community of expatriates living in the Republic of Panama, please take this as one more reminder to improve and upgrade your personal security situation. Our heartfelt condolences go out to all of Georgia's friends and family members.

Copyright 2013 by Don Winner for Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Don't forget to follow Panama Guide on Twitter. Salud.

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Shamed lawyer Michael Karus ‘plans Panama move’

Expat TalesA CROOKED New Town solicitor is planning to flee to Panama after starting to transfer his assets to the Central American tax haven, a court has heard.

Michael Karus, who was jailed for three and a half years for embezzling £400,000 from a pensioner’s estate, is being sued for failing to pay his council tax.

Now council chiefs pursuing the debt, understood to be in the low five figures, are concerned the ex-convict will move abroad before settling the bill.

The council was contacted by Karus’ sister, Anielka McElvogue, who warned them the 51-year-old was making preparations to leave the country by moving assets to Panama.

During a hearing at Edinburgh Sheriff Court yesterday, Karus’ solicitor, Michael Foster, said his client intended to put up a property as “security” while the dispute is settled.

But the council’s solicitor, Victoria Marr, opposed any hold-ups in settling the case, adding that “assets might start suddenly disappearing” if there are further delays.

Ms Marr said that Karus’ intention was to “leave the country” when another ongoing court case was resolved.

However, Sheriff Neil Mackinnon agreed to set another hearing for March 28 to allow time for settlement.
Karus is currently suing his sister and brother-in-law, Tony McElvogue, for at least £11 million to recover assets he transferred into their names to protect his property empire.

He moved the assets to his relatives after being banned from acting as a company director, but sparked a family war by claiming they refused to return his money.

Karus, whose address has previously been given as Gloucester Place in the New Town, is believed to own a number of properties, but it was not revealed yesterday to which home the unpaid tax bill relates.

Ms Marr said that Karus and council staff had been in discussions over the unpaid bill since November 2011.

She added: “This has been going on for some time. The respondent’s sister has said that he is busy transferring assets to Panama. If there is further delay then assets might start disappearing.

“Mr Karus had more than sufficient time to pay. Vague assertions about a security which may be forthcoming in the future is not good enough.” Mr Foster, representing Karus, said that Karus agreed money was due for council tax but disputed the amount.

Karus could not be reached for comment.

Editor's Comment: Great. I wonder if he knows that the country of Panama won't accept his application for residency because of his conviction. Dude, go to Ecuador or somewhere else. We've already reached our dirtbag quota...

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Funeral set for Ottawa man killed in Panama

Expat TalesBy Alison Sandor - The funeral for an Ottawa man killed in Panama will be held Saturday in Metcalfe.

Ed Moynan, who used to own Centennial Glass in Ottawa prior to moving to Panama - went missing in early November of last year.

Friends and family will be able to celebrate his like at the Daley Family Funeral Home on Saturday from 1 until 3 p.m.

The funeral takes place at 3 p.m.

In lieu of sending flowers, Moynan's family is asking for a donation to be made to the Canadian Mental Health Association. (

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Alleged gun smuggling fugitive captured in Panama

Expat TalesBy Howard Roden - Dine Rraci, the Yugoslav national who fled the United States to avoid gun smuggling charges, is back in the Montgomery County Jail after he was captured in Panama last week.

Rraci, 49, who owned two restaurants near Lake Conroe, had been missing ever since he failed to show up for a plea acceptance docket in October 2012 and a hearing on a motion to revoke his $500,000 bond.

Panamanian authorities captured Rraci on Friday, only to have the fugitive escape a day later, said Phil Grant, First Assistant District Attorney.

Rraci was quickly recaptured, and U.S. Marshals took Rraci into custody. He was back in the Montgomery County Jail Sunday.

“The Panamanian government did a great job of tracking him (Rraci) down,” Grant said, adding that bail jumping will be added to charges against Rraci next week.

Rraci was arrested in Nov. 2011 following a raid on his two restaurants – Rex Steakhouse and Bistro Italiano both on Texas 105 West nearly Lake Conroe – by agents with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and Montgomery County Sheriff’s deputies.

They found Rraci allegedly in possession of two loaded semiautomatic pistols and 1,700 rounds of ammunition, according to the arrest warrant affidavit.

Rraci was charged with second-degree felony firearms smuggling and third-degree possession of firearms by a felon.

Initially, Rraci was ordered to surrender his passport and wear a GPS monitoring ankle bracelet. However, Rraci managed to remove the device without alerting authorities. (

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Is body found in suitcase in Panama ex-Ottawa businessman?

Expat TalesBy Danielle Bell - OTTAWA -- The four-month mystery for family and friends of missing ex-Ottawa businessman Ed Moynan has ended with the discovery of remains found in a suitcase in Panama, according to reports from that country.

Panamanian police long believed the disappearance of the 68-year-old, who vanished from his home Nov. 8, was suspicious, but the suitcase discovery has investigators treating it as a homicide, according to journalist Don Winner, who has followed the case.

Skeletal remains were found in the suitcase March 1 by employees of the Altos de Campana National Park, according to Winner. A blood sample from Moynan's sister, Ruth Alchemy, was used to match DNA from the bones.

Earlier Monday, Alchemy said from her home in Panama that they were awaiting results of forensic testing to identify the remains.

"It's a wait-and-see situation," Alchemy said. "As soon as they know, family (from Ottawa) will come down."

Moynan, the retired former owner of Centennial Glass, and his family had long vacationed in Panama and had been living in a beach-side community for more than two years.

"He just wanted to enjoy life," said longtime family friend Keith McClatchie, who pressed government officials last fall to get involved in Moynan's disappearance. " I wasn't holding any false hopes but the family was, until they knew. I feel better for the family now that they know for sure."

Police believed the disappearance was suspicious since items from Moynan's home were missing, his glasses were found broken and there were signs he didn't plan to be gone for long.

Rumors had long swirled in the community that Moynan may have been a victim of foul play.

Police searched his home on Nov. 15, finding the air conditioner running, lights left on, door unlocked and a wallet and watch on a table.

The murder rate in Panama is relatively high, said Winner, but most are related to drug trafficking and "almost never" involve English-speaking ex-pats.

Alchemy is keeping in touch with family in Ottawa via Skype, and other family members were to travel to Panama pending the outcome.

Consular officials are in contact with Panamanian police to gather additional information and are providing assistance to the family, according to Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, adding their thoughts are with the family and friends "of a Canadian citizen who passed away in Panama."

Police are continuing their investigation. (Sun News)

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Okke Ornstein Convicted and Sentenced To 20 Months in Prison

Expat Tales By DON WINNER for - On 14 December 2012 Panama's Fourteenth Criminal Court declared Okke Ornstein "criminally responsible" of the crimes of calumnia (libel: written) and injuria (insult), and sentenced him to a total of twenty months in prison.

The case has to do with an article Ornstein published on one of his websites about Monte Friesner, which included nude photographs of Friesner's wife. The criminal complaint was based on the publication of an article entitled "Wacky Fraud Artist Monte Friesner Sues After Sending Nude Pics Of His Wife" which Ornstein has removed from his websites. The original article can still be seen here on the web archive. Besides finding Ornstein guilty and sentencing him to 20 months in prison, the judge Orlando R. Henriquez Sanchez also ordered the removal of the offending materials from Ornstein's websites.

There is a sort of cascading effect to all of this. First of all, when someone is convicted and sentenced in a criminal case, anyone else who has a similar sort of complaint can submit those materials to the court for consideration. In the case of Okke Ornstein he's a sort of "serial slanderer" - and all of the people he's gone after over the years are talking to one another, sharing information, and comparing notes. Notice that the article in question was published in January 2010 so it took more than three years for the Panamanian justice system to catch up with him. Ornstein used every trick he could think of to delay the inevitable, but sooner or later all of these complaints against him will eventually make their way through the court system, and he will probably be convicted on all of them. The judges and the prosecutors will see Ornstein's name over and over and over again, and quite simply they will grow tired of his bullshit. There are a whole lot of cases in the system making their way through the courts, right now, some more advanced than others.

I still expect Ornstein will make a run for it. He simply doesn't have the guts to spent 20 months in La Joya. As soon as it becomes apparent that the Panamanian justice system is, in fact, actually going to lock him up I expect he will run away, make a break for the border, and be gone. Then Panama will put his conviction(s) into the Interpol system (I'll make sure that happens) so if he tries to go through an international airport somewhere in the future - snatch and grab - back to Panama for you, in cuffs. But don't hold your breath. It's taken three years to get this far and the wheels of justice in Panama spin slowly. No problem, I've got lots of time to watch and wait. And of course there will be other, additional convictions coming against Ornstein for similar types of complains filed by other victims, so the time he's facing in prison will eventually add up.

Just ignore Ornstein. He's like a crazy man screaming at the walls of his basement - who cares what he's trying to say? Guys like this just bounce around the walls until eventually they either hurt themselves or someone else, and the system takes them off the streets. Good riddance. This guy has been the biggest puss filled pimple on the ass of the community of English speaking expatriates in Panama for a long, long time. All of them go away sooner or later, one way or the other.

Copyright 2013 by Don Winner for Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Don't forget to follow Panama Guide on Twitter. Salud.

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Pacific Beach Community Meeting In Response To Recent Violent Crime

Expat TalesBy DON WINNER for - This morning there was a meeting of the members of the beach communities at the La Ruina restaurant in Gorgona, in response to the recent violent attacks, robberies, and home invasions that have occurred in the area.

On Saturday, 16 February, I received an email from Jim Rizik alerting me to a violent attack and robbery that occurred the night before at the Rancho Los Toros restaurant in San Carlos. This was the first I had heard of this attack. A group of armed robbers went there and held all fourteen people who were there for more than two hours. They stole personal valuable items from the customers - things such as wallets, watches, and cell phones - as well as a considerable sum of money from the owners. In addition they stabbed the chef. They tied everyone up except for two people. In addition to the email from Jim, several other people also sent me details of the robbery. This assault on Friday night is what prompted the meeting today, the most recent attack in a string of recent violent crime.

Jim Rizik is one of the organizers of the "Vigilant Neighbors" program in Gorgona. On Sunday he said they were organizing a meeting for Wednesday (today) in Frank's La Ruina restaurant. I suggested he could expand the forum and also invite people and residents from all of the beachfront communities, from Chame to Anton. He agreed, and I started to work to get the word out about the meeting. I asked Jim to send me a press release to formally announce the meeting he was organizing.

I sent an email to the Minister of the Presidency Roberto Henriquez to let him know about the meeting, with a copy to president Ricardo Martinelli. Almost immediately Roberto Henriquez responded by saying he had forwarded the email to the Minister of Security Jose Raul Mulino with instructions to act, and he also sent me Mulino's cell phone number to coordinate directly with him. Yesterday morning I also received a response directly from Ricardo Martinelli who, when speaking about the attack at the Rancho Los Toros restaurant, said "we will catch them." So, the elected officials at the highest levels of the Panamanian government have been made aware of the problem and are focusing more of their attention on these issues.

Yesterday morning I received a call from Commissioner Jorge Miranda, who is the Director of Police Information (Intelligence) of the National Police. He said he had received instructions from his superiors to attend to this situation in the beach areas, and he asked me to come to his office to meet with him to discuss the situation. I explained some of the background, and told him what I had been told about this most recent attack in San Carlos. He was not aware of the Friday night assault. Now, it's important to note that the detectives who investigate crime are in the Direction of Judicial Investigation (DIJ), and it's practically "normal" for the Direction of Police Information (DIIP) to not be in the loop. It's their job to mostly work behind the scenes and to develop the intelligence and background information on the active criminals so they can be targeted for surveillance and eventual arrest. So even though Jorge Miranda was not at today's meeting, the DIIP will be spinning up their machinery to help the larger police system catch the bad guys who are perpetrating these crimes.

I wasn't able to count heads at the meeting today, but it was very well attended. There was a "full house" with all chairs filled and standing room only. I might guess there was about 150 people there or so, maybe more.

There were at least two of the major news organizations present - the La Prensa newspaper and the channel 2 TVN television camera crew. So, there will be at least some local coverage of the meeting.

The National Police were well represented. They sent the two highest ranking police officers who are responsible for the areas in question. Part of the beach communities fall within the Western part of the province of Panama, and the rest falls under the province of Cocle. So both of the local regional chiefs of police were there and directly answering questions from the most concerned members of the audience. They had a police officer with them who was supposed to be doing the duties of simultaneous translation but I could see fairly quickly that his skills were not going to be up to the task, so I gently replaced him and did it myself.

It was a very long meeting, and because I was doing the simultaneous translation and was not sitting down and taking notes, I'm going to have to work from memory to write this up. I'm not going to try to cover every detail, and will just hit the highlights.

Most importantly - the National Police and the Panamanian government are fully aware of the increase in crime in the beachfront communities. They know that people have been targeted specifically because the members of the "gringo" community are seen as having more money. They know there have been a string of recent crimes and assaults. They are going to be increasing their police presence. More cops (raw numbers) are going to be assigned to the area. They will be increasing their visibility, conducting more patrols, and doing everything they can to catch the bad guys and to protect the members of the community.

The high ranking police officers wanted everyone to understand that they have their limitations, and they can only work within those limitations which are placed on them by law. For example, there are gated communities (for example, Playa Blanca) and they are not authorized to enter those areas without the invitation from the property owner. These developers very often hire their own security personnel, who don't have the training or experience necessary to properly protect their clients from simple robbery. Then when something is stolen (like from a hotel room) they call the police. However it's very difficult for the police to investigate a crime, or prevent a crime, when they don't have access to a restricted area. Decameron and Coronado are other areas which fall in this same category.

With regards to investigations, the local police officers only respond to the initial report that a crime has been committed. Then if falls to the victim to go to the local office of the DIJ to file a formal complaint. It's important to note that the lower ranking uniformed police officers are not tasked to perform investigations - this falls to the detectives of the DIJ. The street cops are more about catching someone red handed or in the act, but if the crime has been committed and the bad guys are long gone, there's not a whole lot that those guys can do.

It's critically important for anyone who has been a victim of a crime to file the proper complaint with the local DIJ office. If you don't know where that is, find out. At the meeting someone came up to me on the break and said "what they should have is a hotline where you can just call to report that a crime has been committed, then the DIJ comes to you..." Yeah, that would be nice. However, that's not the infrastructure that exists anywhere in the country. The expats who move here have to learn to deal with the system as it is - as it exists for everyone, including the Panamanian people. Filing a formal complaint is critically important because that starts the investigatory process. The police cannot begin to investigate a crime that has not been reported to them, officially and formally. If you don't report it, then effectively "it didn't happen."

The police officers placed a lot of emphasis on personal security, situational awareness, and not giving the bad guys the opportunity to take advantage of a momentary lapse. Like, don't leave valuables in your car where they are visible to anyone who might be passing by. If the thief can see a laptop computer or a valuable camera in a car, he might be tempted to break a window and steal your valuables. They said that often times owners will sign letters or permissions for delivery people to enter a secure area to drop off building materials (for example) but there's no mechanism to follow the movements of those people to see if they might have made a side trip to steal from your neighbor, on the way to your place. Often times domestic employees are trusted with too much information about personal movements, keys to the house or car, knowledge about valuables in the house, and that sort of information. They then take advantage of the confidence we place in them to commit crimes, or to pass that information on to others who then steal from you.

Specifically speaking about Friday night's assault on the Rancho Los Toros restaurant, the police said they have about 80% of the information necessary to be able to go to the local prosecutor to request that an arrest warrant be issued for those who were involved. Before the start of the meeting Police Commissioner Domingo Espitia, the Chief of Police for the Western part of the province of Panama, told me some of the details of the information they have developed, and also cautioned that it would not be wise to reveal those details during the meeting today, in order to not damage their investigative efforts or the case they are developing against the thieves.

Some people wanted to take everyone's time to talk about personal problems or legal issues that were actually not appropriate for the announced scope of the forum. For example, one guy has a legal vendetta against the local Justice of the Peace in Gorgona over issues of land invasion and titling. Everyone listened to him, then moved on.

Someone asked a question about firearms and the use of deadly force, and under what conditions can a firearm be used to defend oneself from an attack or assault. The bottom line is that there needs to be an element of imminent threat or danger, such as when the criminal has a firearm or a knife, and is threatening to use it. Whenever the police officers are involved in a shooting situation they must face an administrative process, to prove that the criminal was about to use deadly force against them or a third party. In a case of a civilian using a properly registered and authorized weapon for personal or home defense, in that case the government of Panama has already passed the weapon owner through a series of filters, such as a psychological exam and a criminal background check, and allowed them to legally own the weapon. Commissioner Espitia said "there's not a judge in the world" who would find you guilty of murder for shooting someone who is in your home, involved in a home invasion robbery, who is armed. But, you can't just go around shooting people, and if you do decide in that critical moment to use deadly force, then you also will have to be prepared to face the consequences of that decision. In the case in Chiriqui for example, the "process" eventually worked and the expat who shot and killed an armed robber (on a neighbor's property) was eventually acquitted. Bottom line - make sure the bad guy is armed before you drop him. Then, be prepared to do a lot of paperwork.

Commissioner Espitia said they would propose establishing a "liaison center" manned 24/7 by English speaking police officers with a hotline covering all of the beach communities. These officers would be able to act almost as "911" operators, who would then coordinate the response of the police forces in the case of an emergency. Both of the regional commanders present handed out their personal cell phone numbers but simultaneously they admitted that the primary barrier is language. Many of the expats don't speak sufficient Spanish, and the most of the police officers don't speak enough English. As a stop-gap measure they handed out the cell phone number of the one bilingual officer who is assigned to the area, and ordered him to answer the phone 24/7 (and joking said he would be fired if he doesn't answer the phone.) But within a few weeks hopefully this "liaison office" will be up and running.

Hugh highlighted the existence of which is an initiative in Boquete which as been effective to reduce crime and increase security for that community. Many of these elements and ideas are already incorporated in the "Vigilant Neighbors" program, and those present at the meeting were encouraged to get organized in their individual neighborhoods to coordinate their efforts.

Carolina asked a question about police reports and background checks for potential employees. As a business owner, how can an employer check to see if the person they are interviewing for a job has a criminal record? The answer is simple. Anyone who is about to hire someone can include the requirement for the applicant to provide a current copy of their police report, along with their resume.

John pointed out the possibility of establishing a tips line or a hotline that can be used by the general public to provide intelligence information to the police regarding any crime, and if that information leads to an arrest or conviction, then the tipster is paid a reward. In fact, in Panama the police (less) and the prosecutors (more) already pay informants. Some Panamanians know how to get paid for information, but the fact of the matter is that there is no formally established "tip line" program as suggested. And, it's a good idea. Maybe that's something that can be developed moving forward.

So, the bottom line is that the highest ranking authorities in the Panamanian government are aware of the problem. The police authorities have made promises to increase patrols, seek additional resources, and to do as much as possible to prevent crime and arrest those responsible for crimes committed in the past. Channel 2 TVN covered the meeting on their 6:00 pm evening news tonight and it will likely be repeated at 11:00 pm and on the morning news tomorrow. And I also expect there will be something in La Prensa tomorrow morning as well. So, the simple fact that the community came together to express their frustrations went a long way towards - at the very least - getting some attention drawn to these issues. It remains to be seen exactly what will be done in the future, and if those actions will have any impact on reducing crime and improving the security in Panama's Pacific beach communities.

As a side note - install an alarm system. Install exterior lighting. Improve your physical security (window bars, solid or metal doors, locks). Consider obtaining a personal weapon for home defense (shotgun). If you make yourself the hardest nut to crack, then the criminals will move on to an easier target. That's a fact of life in Panama, and in practically any community in the entire world.

Editor's Comment: There was a rash of crime in the beach communities a few years ago, like back in 2009 or so. I think some criminal or maybe a group of them got arrested and thrown in prison for a few years, and now they have been released. I think once they are caught then things will go "back to normal" with regards to safety and security. In the meantime, protect yourselves, and help the cops do their jobs as much as possible. They are working with limited resources, and if they are investigating your home invasion robbery, then they are probably not investigating a murder or a drug trafficker or something like that. Yes, it's a "zero sum" game, and in this game the squeaky wheel gets the most cops. So, keep squeaking.

Copyright 2013 by Don Winner for Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.

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Pacific Beach Community Meeting In Response To Recent Violent Crime

Expat TalesBy DON WINNER for - A group of armed robbers assaulted the expat owned Rancho Los Toros bar and restaurant on Friday night, 15 February 2013. There were about fourteen people there at the time. All but two of them were tied up. The crooks were there for a total of about two hours, and everything of value was stolen, including the personal items belonging to the customers and staff, as well as a relatively large sum of money from the owners of the restaurant.

This is only the most recent of a series of violent crimes that have been perpetrated against the members of the English speaking community of expatriates who live in the Pacific beach communities - including Coronado, Gorgona, Chame, Decameron, Playa Blanca, and San Carlos - in recent weeks. It has become fairly clear that, as usual, the "gringos" are being targeted again, with more frequency.

In response, the members of these communities are organizing a meeting which will be held at 10:00 am on Wednesday morning, 20 February 2013, at the La Ruina restaurant in Gorgona. I received the following press release last night;

  • "PRESS RELEASE - Please be advised that the Nuevo Gorgona Vecinos Vigilantes is holding a meeting on Wednesday, February 20, 2013 at 10 am at the La Ruina Restaurant in Gorgona. In attendance will be high ranking officials from the police department, DIJ, Don Winner, and other VIP's. The subject matter will be the recent armed robberies in the beach communities, victim information and personal safety. Residents from Punta Chame to Rio Hato will be in attendance. President James Rizik, Nuevo Gorgona Vecino Vigilantes, 6590-3308,"

So, you're all invited. Anyone living in any of the beach communities between Chame to Rio Hato as well as those who have in interest in security issues in this area is invited to attend. I've shot out some invitations to some Panamanian government officials, so let's see who shows up on short notice. Please spread the word. See you there. Thanks.

Copyright 2013 by Don Winner for Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Don't forget to follow Panama Guide on Twitter. Salud.

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Swiss Citizen Wanted By Albania For Fraud Busted At Tocumen Airport, Panama

Expat TalesA Swiss-born citizen who is wanted for the crime of fraud was arrested by Interpol in Panama at the Tocumen International Airport, when he arrived on a flight from Uruguay.

The arrest of the 55-year-old comes in response to a Red Alert issued by the Albanian government calling for the arrest and deportation of the Swiss citizen.

The detainee is being held under orders of the Foreign Ministry of Panama where they will continue with the proceedings of the case for his subsequent deportation. (TVN)

Editor's Comment: And, there's another one. If you're wanted for something, by anyone, anywhere - you damn well better stay away from Panama. It's got to be this guy. I did a search of the Interpol website, and the only Red Alert issued by Albania for a Swiss citizen is for Roland Butikofer. He apparently fled from Albania about five years ago.

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Security Minister Says "Wild Bill" Doesn't Have Internet Access Any More

Expat TalesPanama's Public Security Minister, Jose Raul Mulino, said the issue of William Dathan Holbert, alias "Wild Bill", is not new, and the situation was overcome months ago.

According Mulino, they learned a long time ago that "Wild Bill" had Internet access, but as soon as they found out about it the situation was rectified.

"Wild Bill" has a Facebook page which is updated regularly with pictures taken from inside of the prison. (Dia a Dia)

Editor's Comment: This is in direct response to the complaint I lodged on the channel 2 TVN morning news last Friday. While it's true that the authorities have searched Holbert's prison cell and confiscated cell phones, it's also true that they were unable to find all of the cell phones, and Holbert is still updating the Facebook page himself, from prison.

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William Dathan Holbert - "Wild Bill" - Has A Facebook Page

Expat TalesBy DON WINNER for - A couple of days ago I learned that William Dathan Holbert - a.k.a. "Wild Bill" - who is currently being held in the public prison in the city of David in the Republic of Panama, has a Facebook account that his is apparently updating and managing from inside of his prison cell.

This morning I went on the channel 2 TVN morning news program to denounce the existence of this account. Prisoners in Panama are not supposed to have access to cell phones with a data plan and the Internet.

I doubt Holbert's Facebook page will last very long, and it will probably be taken down fairly quickly now that I've made this public complaint. In the meantime while it's still there you can see it at: You can also find it by doing a search on Facebook for "Los Reos Unificados" (The Unified Prisoners). This article is getting long, so I'm going to break it up. Click on the link below to read the rest of it... (more)

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Panama's Supreme Court About To Hand Down "Wild Bill" Decisions

Expat Tales The Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court began to circulate this month six draft rulings that will resolve six of eight appeals filed in the case against William Dathan Holbert, aka Wild Bill, and his partner Laura Reese, according to judicial sources.

Wild Bill and Reese have been detained since July 26, 2010, accused of five killings in Bocas del Toro.

In one of the draft rulings, the Criminal Chamber ordered the accumulation of the case files for the murders of Cheryl Hughes, Bo Icelar and the Brown Family: Michael Watson Brown, his son Watson and his wife Manchitha Nankratoke.

In the three other projects the High Court confirms a ruling issued by the lower court in Chiriqui which denied bail for Reese.

They also ordered that the complainants (the husband and the father of the victim) act separately in the case of Hughes.

And lastly, they ordered that Hughes' property will pass to the control of her father.

Supreme Court Magistrate Harry Diaz is the rapporteur of decisions. (Prensa)

Editor's Comment: When they say the cases will be "accumulated" they mean combined. Previously there were three individual case files - one for the murder of Cher Hughes, one for the murder of Bo Icelar, and one for the murder of the Brown family. Now, all of these cases will be combined or "accumulated" into one big file, and there will be just one trial. It's interesting to see that they decided to order that Cher's father and husband act separately as complainants. I have my own theories as to why they might have done this, and I have to do some more research, so you can expect more on this angle of things later. Importantly, the court decided that all of Cher's property will be handed over to her father, and this is entirely in line with her clearly expressed wishes and desires. Cher established a foundation before she was murdered. She has placed all of her real estate holdings into that foundation and she made her father the beneficiary. By that point she had learned that her husband was cheating on her, and she did this in order to prepare for an eventual divorce proceeding. So - I think this decision by the Supreme Court is right on, and in perfect alignment with Cher's desires. They also denied bail for Reese - which is a no brainer. Now with these decisions, once they are finally handed down officially, the trial of William Dathan Holbert and Laura Michelle Reese for five murders can proceed to court. Slowly but surely...

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Okke Ornstein - A Fugitive From The Panamanian Justice System

Expat Tales By DON WINNER for - On 28 November 2012 the judge of Panama's Fifteenth Criminal Court declared the Dutch expat Okke Ornstein to be a "rebel inmate," and issued an order for his immediate arrest.

This is the case involving Patrick Visser and Silva Tree, about which Ornstein has published a series of inflammatory articles. Visser and lawyers for Silva Tree took exception to the content of those articles and filed criminal charges against Ornstein for slander and defamation of character. There are several other criminal complaints pending against Ornstein for similar actions, with serious allegations of criminal activity up to an including extortion.

In the Visser/Silva Tree case, the judge held a preliminary hearing and decided there was enough evidence against Ornstein to proceed to a criminal trial. Starting late last year court officials have been trying to officially notify Ornstein of those proceedings, however they have been unable to do so. According to Panamanian law, they then published the notification in the local newspaper for five days. After that, when Ornstein still failed to appear, the judge declared him to be a "rebel inmate" and issued an order for his arrest. That order has since been entered into the database used by the National Police (and immigration) and can be verified using the handheld "pele police" system. Sooner or later some cop will find Ornstein and check his name and passport number. When they do, they will see the arrest warrant and haul him before the judge, in handcuffs.

So, do you know where Okke Ornstein is right now? If so, please let me know. I would be more than happy to help the Panamanian law enforcement and justice system round up yet another fugitive. Or, you can just point him out to any Panamanian police officer and tell them "that man is a fugitive." They will check him out, and he will go away. Ornstein is an absolute scumbag who's been stinking the place up for years. Hopefully he will just run away like the coward that he is, and leave Panama behind, for good. Either that, or he will end up in jail. Works for me either way.

Copyright 2013 by Don Winner for Go ahead and use whatever you like as long as you credit the source. Salud.

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Caviar distributor off the hook, no more prison time for import scheme

Expat Tales Isidoro "Mario" Garbarino, a New York caviar distributor who evaded arrest for nearly a quarter century, won't spend any more time in prison for his illegal sturgeon-egg import scheme.

Garbarino was sentenced Monday in Manhattan to time served for unlawfully importing more than 100,000 pounds of Russian and Iranian caviar in the 1980s.

The 69-year-old Garbarino has been jailed since September. He was arrested by U.S. marshals after he was caught changing planes in Panama.

He admitted that he used schemes to avoid high taxes while importing caviar worth more than $10 million from 1984 to 1987.

Originally charged in a November 1987 indictment, he fled the country in July 1989. He has agreed to pay $3 million in restitution. (

Editor's Comment: There's another one. Guys who were arrested in Panama and deported back to the United States to face charges, when all they were doing was changing planes. This is becoming more and more common.

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Superior Prosecutor Will Take Over Murder Investigation of Two Spaniards in Colon

Expat TalesThe case file for the investigation of the murders of the Spaniards Miguel Heinrich Untiedt and José Antonio De Los Santos Perdomo will be transferred to the First Superior Prosecutor of Panama.

The Spaniards were killed in the villate of Juan Gallegos, on the Upper Coast of the province of Colon.

There are three defendants in the criminal investigation initiated by the local prosecutor of Portobelo.

Two of the defendants point to the third as the perpetrator of both crimes.

The remains of the victims were cremated and taken to Spain. (Critica)

Editor's Comment: It's common for an investigation to be started by the low level local prosecutor, and then to be turned over to a higher ranking (and much more capable) Superior Prosecutor to take the case to court.

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