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Wednesday, April 23 2014 @ 06:49 PM EDT

Expat Tales

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

Expat TalesTwo Dutch women who disappeared earlier this month in Panama are unlikely to have gotten lost in the mountainous region, Dutch police said on Tuesday, raising the possibility three weeks into the search that the two may have been the victims of a crime.

Kris Kremers, 21, and Lisanne Froon, 22, were hiking near the town of Boquete on April 1 when they were last seen, police said. The area is known to be a popular tourist holiday destination.

Panamanian authorities launched a widespread search for the women, but found no sign of the two would-be volunteers. On April 14, officials decided to downscale the massive operation.

The women's parents have asked for tips and support via social media.

"After 3 weeks there has been no trace of our daughters and we live daily between hope and fear. These are difficult times for us as you can understand," a message posted Tuesday read. "The search for Kris and Lisanne continues unabated and we hope that you will continue sending your tips and suggestions."

Kremers and Froon had traveled on March 15 to Panama, where they first stayed in the town of Bocas del Toro for two weeks before traveling to Boquete, where they intended to volunteer at a school for the remaining four weeks of their trip. Once they got to Boquete, the women were told they would not be able to start their work until the following week -- so they had a week to fill.

Dutch police said an inn keeper saw them on April 1, when the women asked him for directions for their hike. Tired, they later returned to the man and asked for help getting back to town. Police said the man advised them to take a taxi, but he said he didn't see whether the women returned to town or went back to the mountain.

Dutch police spokesman Bernhard Jens said Tuesday on Dutch media that it was unlikely the women would have returned to their hike.

—Becky Bratu (NBC)

Editor's Comment: Based on this report it would seem there's practically no chance they got lost while hiking. It sounds like they completed their hike and were trying to return back to their hotel. I bet they hailed a cab, and then were abducted. Practically every murder I've investigated started off as a missing person case. Hopefully they are still alive somewhere...

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American Fugitive Sage Million Arrested In Panama - Wanted In US For Terrorism

Expat TalesAn American citizen identified as Sage Million, 61, was arrested while trying to illegally enter Panama from Costa Rica, and upon further investigation it was discovered he is wanted in the United States for "terrorism" and other crimes, reported an official source. (more)

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Prosecutor Requests Maximum Penalty For Spanish Serial Killer Javier Martin

Expat TalesThe Third Superior Prosecutor Sofanor Espinosa asked the judges to apply the maximum penalty against the Spanish citizen Javier Bermejo Martin, for the murder of the U.S. citizen Don North, perpetrated in February 2011. (more)

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Serial Killer Javier Martin Went On Trial For Murder Today in Panama

Expat TalesBy Don Winner for - Javier Martin, the Spaniard who killed the Frenchman Jean Pierre Bouhard and the American Don North in early 2011 went on trial this morning, charged with murder, robbery, the illegal use of stolen credit cards, and weapons charges. (more)

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Miss. man pleads not guilty in bankruptcy fraud

Expat TalesBy JEFF AMY - JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A Jackson man pleaded not guilty Tuesday to federal charges that he defrauded his bankrupt business of more than $9 million.

Federal prosecutors said that after William "Butch" Dickson company, Community Home Financial Services, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, the 57-year-old wired nearly $9.1 million from company accounts to a bank in Panama. Prosecutors say he also sent mortgage checks the company had collected to Central America.

Court papers say the bankruptcy trustee in charge of protecting funds for the company's creditors demanded Dickson return the money but he didn't comply.

A federal magistrate in Miami ordered Dickson held without bond after he was expelled from Panama on March 12 and returned to the United States. A hearing was set Thursday for Dickson to challenge his detention.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Carlos Tanner told U.S. Magistrate Judge Keith Ball Tuesday that prosecutors believe Dickson is flight risk if released from the Madison County jail, where he's being held. Joe Holloman, one of Dickson's lawyers, said after the hearing that he would present evidence Thursday showing why Dickson is not a flight risk.

The indictment charges Dickson with six counts of bankruptcy fraud, six counts of bank fraud and five counts of wire fraud. If convicted, he could face decades in prison and millions of dollars in fines. Prosecutors also want him to forfeit the money in question.

Community Home was in the business of collecting mortgage payments on several thousand accounts. The company filed for Chapter 11 protection in 2012, claiming nearly $45 million in assets and $30 million in liabilities. Dickson was left in charge of the company and its bank accounts, but wasn't supposed to make certain kinds of transfers without permission, as is typical in a Chapter 11 proceeding.

But court papers say that starting in November, Dickson began sending money out of the country, himself traveling to Costa Rica in January. Prosecutors also allege that the company began directing customers to send loan payments to a Las Vegas address, where they were boxed up and sent to Costa Rica. After the bankruptcy trustee discovered the Las Vegas address, prosecutors say the company directed payments to a Miami address.

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What Are YOUR "Top Ten" Reasons For Moving To Panama?

Expat TalesBy Don Winner for - I'm working on a project and I'm looking for some feedback from the members of the English speaking community of expatriates who are already living in Panama, either full or part time.

The question is: "What are your top ten reasons for living in Panama? Why did you move here? Why do you like it here so much, or what do you love about Panama now that you're here? Give me your top ten list of things you like about living here."

I've been asking this question of expats for a few weeks now, and surprisingly enough, the answers are scattered all over the place. There are a lot of things showing up on people's lists that I didn't anticipate at all (but, they make perfect sense).

So please send your personal list to me via email - Please include "Top Ten List" in the subject line. And please take the time to prioritize your list, or to put the things on your list in order. The #1 reason should be the most important thing to you, and #10 made the list but maybe it's not a critical or deciding factor.

Also, I'm doing this via email because I've noticed that people's lists tend to get sort of "polluted" (if that makes any sense) when they can see the responses sent in by others. I'm looking for pure and true feedback, and I don't want to skew the results...

As always, thanks for the feedback.

Copyright 2014

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SINAPROC Ends Search For Two Missing Dutch Women in Panama

Expat TalesThe Public Ministry will now become responsible for determining the whereabouts of the two Dutch tourists who disappeared in early April in the district of Boquete, Chiriqui. (more)

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Miss. man indicted in $9 million bankruptcy fraud

Expat TalesBy JEFF AMY JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A Jackson man has been indicted on charges that he allegedly stole more than $9 million from his bankrupt business.

William "Butch" Dickson faces charges in U.S. District Court.

Authorities allege that after Community Home Financial Services filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, Dickson wired nearly $9.1 million from the mortgage company's accounts, mostly to a bank in Panama.

Court papers say the bankruptcy trustee in charge of protecting funds for the mortgage company's creditors demanded the 58-year-old Dickson return the money but he didn't comply.

It's unclear whether Dickson has a lawyer.

The U.S. attorney's office says he was expelled from Panama on March 12 and arrested on his return to the United States.

Dickson is jailed in Mississippi without bond. A court date hasn't been set.

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Still No Trace Of Missing Two In Panama

Expat TalesPANAMA CITY – Emergency services have searched the Panamanian Boquete area several times without any trace of the missing Dutch woman. According to a spokesman of the services, the quest is now at its end and now it becomes primarily a police matter.

Normally they will search for missing people for three days, the spokesman said. “We have been searching for Lisanne Froon (21) and Kris Kremers (22), who were last seen a week ago, six days already. If the two will be found in the mountains around Boquete is now almost impossible.

Apparently a man spoke with them last week Tuesday at a footpath near the Pianista Trail, which they initially wanted to take. In the last few days, according to aid organization Sinaproc, there were no new relevant reports of possible witnesses.

“We always keep hope,” the spokesman said. The police has been already in action in order to detect the two.

Editor's Comment: I understand the SINAPROC was still searching today, so the effort has not been completely called off, yet. But at some point a "search and rescue" effort to find a missing person has to naturally change to something else, a police investigation into what happened. It seems that if they were lost on the mountain somewhere they would have been turned up by now.

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Fake death conman John Darwin 'has repaid just £121'

Expat TalesConvicted canoe death fraudster John Darwin has repaid just £121 of a £679,000 proceeds of crime order, a court has heard.

Darwin, 63, of Seaton Carew, Teesside, faked his own death in 2002 so his then-wife Anne could claim £500,000.

He served three years of a six-year jail term for insurance fraud.

Teesside Crown Court heard he may now have to use a recently matured pension to repay the cash he cheated out of insurance companies.

The father of two appeared in court after police began fresh proceedings under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

A judge had previously ordered he should repay £679,073, but the court was told divorced Darwin, who is claiming benefits, has only been able to hand back £121.

The Crown has now applied for him to repay more, as a pension has matured. A hearing to decide the matter will be held in May.

Darwin did not speak during the brief hearing before Judge Howard Crowson.

Anne Darwin, now split from her husband, has repaid more than £500,000 under a separate Proceeds of Crime order.

John Darwin was reported missing in a canoe in the North Sea in March 2002.

His wife collected more than £500,000 in life insurance payouts, while he hid in their home, leaving their two sons believing he was dead.

In December 2007, he walked into a London police station, claiming he had amnesia, and was reunited with his sons who were stunned to hear he was alive.

His wife, who had fled with him to Panama, pretended to be shocked until a photograph emerged of them posing together after his supposed death.

She was later jailed for six-and-a-half-years for fraud and money-laundering.

Earlier this year police said John Darwin was being investigated again under the Proceeds of Crime Act regarding possible "undeclared assets".

After the pair were jailed, assets including a fourth-floor apartment in Panama City and an overgrown plot of land near the artificial Lake Gatun were seized and sold.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) was granted a confiscation order to retrieve the money Mrs Darwin received from her insurance companies and pension funds.

All the money held in accounts in the UK and Panama, which totalled about £9,000, was also seized. (BBC News)

Editor's Comment: Ah, yes. The Darwins. Also known as "the gift that keeps on giving" for the UK press. They are obsessed with these people over there. John Darwin farts and it's a "stop the presses" moment.

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Martinelli Says Panama Is Doing Everything It Can To Find Missing Dutch Women

Expat TalesTwo Dutch women went missing in Panama last week. President Ricardo Martinelli has emphasized that the country is doing everything to find them.

During a press conference on Sunday, Martinelli thanked the Dutch embassy “for the confidence” during the search party, De Telegraaf reports.

The missing women are 22-year old Lisanne Froon from Amersfoort and 21-year old Kris Kremers from Utrecht. They have been missing since Tuesday.

According to sources, the travelers had difficulty choosing between two walking routes, one of which is El Pianista Trail.

Ingrid Lommers, director of a language school the women visited, says that they turned back to Boquete after 30 minutes, exhausted.

Thick clouds are hampering the search party now, a rescue service member tells. Rescuers are also battling with the Panama landscape, needing ropes to travel downwards, sometimes 500 meters.

According to the Dutch ambassador, Wiebe de Boer, cooperation between Panama’s authorities and the Netherlands is “very good.”

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Search Continues For Two Missing Dutch Tourists in Panama

Expat TalesPanama's Civil Protection Service and National Police continue to search today for two young Dutch women who have been missing since last Tuesday in the district of Boquete, in the Northern part of the province of Chiriqui, in the Western area of the Republic of Panama. (more)

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Trial Decision Delayed for Man Accused of Girlfriend's Panama Death

Expat TalesBy Andie Adams and Vanessa Herrera - A federal judge has decided to hold off on an obstruction of justice trial for the man accused of killing his girlfriend in Panama.

Brian Brimager, 38, is the lead suspect in the death of Yvonne Baldelli, who went missing while the two were on vacation in Central America in 2011.

Baldelli’s remains were found in a zipped bag off the coast of Isla Carenero in Aug. 2013. A federal grand jury charged Brimager with obstructing justice and making false statements to law enforcement, and he was arrested by the FBI in the Vista area on June 26, 2013.

Prosecutors allege he underwent an elaborate scheme to cover up Baldelli’s death.

On Friday, the federal judge heard a defense motion to dismiss charges against Brimager. The judge did not throw out the charges, but he also did not set a trial date, calling the hearing a “dicey matter.”

While prosecutors were expecting a trial date, they accepted a 90-day motion.

Baldelli’s family said the delay will give officials in Panama more time to gather the evidence.

Brimager’s defense said there has to be a “clear nexus” in the case, and if it goes to a jury trial, they want wording on the charges changed.

James Faust Jr., Baldelli’s brother, told NBC 7 it was heart-wrenching to see the “emaciated” Brimager in court Friday, but the family is glad he has not been released from custody.

“The jumpsuit suits him very well though, and those shackles, those chains on his ankles are music to my ears," said Baldelli’s sister Michele Valenzuela.

According to the grand jury indictment, Brimager and Baldelli traveled to Bocas Del Toro, Panama, in Sept. 2011. They stayed in a hostel on Isla Carenero, an island off the coast accessible only by boat.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office accused Brimager of physically abusing Baldelli, and she was last seen with him at a Panamanian restaurant on Nov. 26, 2011.

Prosecutors allege that soon after that, Brimager killed Baldelli. Investigators said he then tried to cover up her death by sending emails to family and friends from her laptop, posing as Baldelli. The emails said she was traveling to Costa Rica with another man.

Brimager allegedly disposed of a bloody mattress from their Isla Carenero hostel by dumping it in the ocean, investigators said. According to the indictment, Brimager had done two internet searches on Baldelli’s laptop for instructions on getting blood stains out of a mattress.

Court documents also accuse Brimager of packing Baldelli’s belongings into ten large garbage bags and leaving them on the dock outside their hostel for disposal.

Brimager then used Baldelli’s ATM card in Costa Rica and San Jose to make it look like she was still alive, prosecutors said.

When investigators questioned the suspect about Baldelli’s disappearance, they said Brimager lied to them and claimed she took her laptop to travel. That same laptop was found in his possession in 2012, at which point he changed his story and said the device never went to Panama and he never sent emails from it.

Nearly two years after vanishing, Baldelli’s body was discovered on a small island off the Isla Carenero coastline. Forensic scientists used DNA analysis on the skull and bones to identify her.

Brimager now faces 13 charges in connection with Baldelli’s death. If convicted on all counts, he would have to serve a maximum sentence of 205 years in prison and a $2.5 million fine.

Baldelli’s family said if Brimager goes to trial and is convicted in the U.S., they hope he will then be extradited to Panama to face murder charges.

“Justice is most important for us, and justice will be done when he is incarcerated – like I said – for the rest of his life,” said Baldelli’s father James Faust.

Many of the family members have made it a priority to attend Brimager’s hearings en masse.

“He did everything he could, hoping that people would forget her and not investigate and try to cover his tracks. But it didn’t work and we’re all here and he’s in jail,” said Baldelli’s niece Lauren Beyer.

NBC 7 reached out to Brimager’s defense attorney, but so far, no response has been returned. (

Editor's Comment: My guess is the judge punted on the issue for 90 days because they know Panama is about to finalize their request for extradition, to have Brimager returned to Panama to face murder charges. And 50 years in a Panamanian prison is a longer and tougher stretch than 205 years in a US prison. If he gets extradited to Panama, then they can keep him in prison for a very long time. If he ever gets released then they can boot him back to the US, where he can die in prison there. If justice is to be served, then Brimager will face murder charges in Panama, where he killed Baldelli.

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Daniel Moreno Melendez Convicted in Murder of American Expat Denise Mullen Hiller - Sentenced To 25 Years in Prison

Expat Tales By Don Winner for - Daniel Moreno Melendez was convicted of murder in the case of the American expatriate Denise Mullen Hiller, and sentenced to 25 years in prison.

Moreno Melendez killed Denise Mullen Hiller during the evening of Thursday, 18 February 2010 in her apartment in the Paitilla neighborhood of Panama City.

According to the autopsy Denise died as a result of severe head trauma caused by a blunt object.

During the trial Moreno Melendez admitted he met the victim at the hotel where he worked. He was a bartender at the "Champions" Sports Bar in the Marriott hotel in downtown Panama City. Moreno said he and Hiller struck up a friendship, but he denied having murdered Hiller. He maintained his innocence throughout the trial.

The Second Superior Tribunal convicted him of aggravated homicide, and sentenced him to 25 years in prison. Two of the three judges sitting on the tribunal voted for conviction, and there was a dissenting minority opinion.

Police detectives, forensics experts, and investigators working for the prosecutor of the Public Ministry were able to determine that Moreno Melendez surprised the victim and struck her in the skull from behind. She had no chance to defend herself, and he did not try to help her.

During the trial it came out that there were supposedly indications of a "condition of evident superiority" between the perpetrator and the victim.

Justice Luis Mario Carrasco wrote a dissenting opinion in this case, who said the prosecution was not able to prove the existence of premeditation.

He went on to say the prosecution was only able to prove that Daniel Moreno was in the company of the deceased in her apartment in the late afternoon, and at that time she was alive. He also said the accused lied to investigators throughout the investigation. (Critica)

Editor's Comment: This news article actually appeared in the La Critica newspaper in the middle of last year. There was no news article published anywhere in the Panamanian Spanish language press when the conviction was handed down, and I missed this one when it was published at the time. This evening I was going through the news and ran across an article about a different case and court trial. That prompted me to do a search, and I found this.

Justice moves very slowly in Panama, especially when the prosecutors are convinced they have the right guy behind bars. Moreno killed Denise Mullen Hiller on Thursday, 18 February 2010. Her body was discovered the next day, on Friday. Police detectives arrested Moreno was arrested just a few days later, on Monday evening, 22 February 2010 - thanks to information provided to me by Denise's "close family member" (who was in the United States at the time). I relayed the details for her to the DIJ, and they were able to quickly coordinate with the prosecutor, find Moreno's house in Arraiján, post a stake-out, and arrest him when he returned home from work later that evening. He has been in prison since that day.

This case represents the first time I was able to help the family members of a murder victim by providing the details and information they had to the Panamanian authorities, resulting in an arrest. Also, this is the first conviction for murder in any of the cases in which I've been involved. The serial killers William Dathan "Wild Bill" Holbert, his accomplice Laura Michelle Reese, and the Spaniard Javier Martin have yet to face trial. Brian Brimager is still facing extradition from the United States, to be returned to Panama for the murder of Yvonne Baldelli. So it took more than three years, but today I learned that one murderer will be spending 25 years in prison for having murdered an American in Panama.

And yeah, it's satisfying. It's nice to know this scumbag will spent 25 years in prison for what he did. Remember, he actually tried to blow Denise's apartment up in an attempt to destroy evidence. After he killed her, he dragged her body out into the kitchen area. He lit a bunch of candles in the apartment, opened up the gas on the stove in the kitchen, and fled. Unfortunately for him, the dry season winds were blowing strongly and the gas in the apartment was never able to build up to the point where it reached an explosive mixture. Investigators also found traces of Denise's blood in his car, on the floor mats, accelerator, and brake pedals. Yeah, he did it. Adios, asshole...

My sincere condolences go out to Denise's friends and family members. Over the years I've spoken to many of them, and exchanged email. Denise came to Panama to work on a contract related to the expansion of the Panama Canal, and shortly after arriving she ran into this monster. At least now maybe there will be a little closure, for what it's worth.

Related Articles:

Flash - American Expat Denise Hiller - Found Dead in Paitilla 19 Feb 2010

Update on the Murder of Denise Mullen Hiller 19 Feb 2010

Denise Mullen Hiller Investigation Continues 20 Feb 2010

Denise Mullen Hiller Found Dead in Panama Apartment 20 Feb 2010

Investigating the Death of Denise Mullen Hiller in Panama 20 Feb 2010

Suspect Arrested in Brutal Murder of American Denise Mullen Hiller in Panama 23 Feb 2010

Daniel Moreno Melendez Charged With Murder of Denise Mullen Hiller in Panama 26 Feb 2010

Blood Found in Denise Mullen Hiller Murder Suspect's Car 5 Mar 2010

An Update On The Denise Hiller Murder Trial - No Date Set 11 Aug 2011

Middletown native helps ID suspected killers in Panama 4 Feb 2012

Daniel Moreno - On Trial Yesterday For The Murder Of American Citizen Denise Hiller 2 Oct 2012

Manuel Moreno Promoted From Chief of DIJ to Vice Minister of Security 12 Oct 2012

No Decision Yet In Murder Trial of Daniel Moreno Melendez in Death of US Expat Denise Hiller 16 Jan 2013

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DA Rice Announces Sentencing of International Fugitive Who Spent a Dozen Years on the Run

Expat TalesMineola, NY - Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice announced the sentencing today of a man who was captured after an almost 12-year international and multi-agency manhunt. He was the driver in a 2001 hit-and-run incident that killed an 80-year-old woman in Westbury.

Sebastian Barba, 36, formerly of Hicksville, was sentenced by Nassau County Court Judge Angelo Delligatti to 12 years in prison. Barba pleaded guilty today to Assault in the 1st Degree (a B violent felony) and Leaving the Scene of an Incident Without Reporting (an E felony).

“This defendant showed callous disregard for life and law when he committed this horrific crime and then evaded prosecution for over a decade,” DA Rice said. “But justice caught up in the end with his being sentenced to as much time in prison as he spent evading responsibility for his elderly victim’s death.”

Barba was arrested in November 2012 after an almost 12-year international manhunt involving DA Rice’s office, the Nassau County Police Department, the Port Authority Police Department, the U.S. State Department, the U.S. Marshal’s Service, the government of Panama, and INTERPOL.

DA Rice said that at approximately 10:05 a.m. on Feb. 6, 2001, 80-year-old Jean Renison was crossing Post Avenue at the Maple Avenue intersection in Westbury when she was struck by a 1995 Cadillac being driven by Barba. The impact of the collision forced the victim onto the hood of the vehicle. Barba then applied the brakes, causing the victim, who was still alive and moving at the time, to fall to the ground in front of the vehicle.

Barba then slowly drove over the victim’s chest with the front tires and her head with the back tires while a witness screamed at him to stop. He then fled the scene without identifying himself or aiding the victim and then fled to Ecuador, where he has dual citizenship. A grand jury indicted him shortly thereafter and a warrant was issued for his arrest.

While Barba holds dual U.S. and Ecuadorian citizenship, extradition was impossible because the Ecuadorean constitution states that no Ecuadorean national can be extradited to another country.

During the years he eluded capture, police followed multiple leads to locate Barba and to bring him to justice. In May 2005, Barba was featured in an episode of America’s Most Wanted.

Barba was detained by local authorities in Panama when his connecting flight from the Dominican Republic to Ecuador was flagged due to an international arrest warrant issued by INTERPOL. He was escorted back to the U.S. on Nov. 9, 2012 by Panamanian officers and U.S. Marshalls.

DA Rice added special thanks to NCPD Det. Gary Ferrucci, who has worked the case from the beginning, as well as the following for their involvement in this investigation: U.S. Marshals – Senior Inspector, Office of South American Affairs, Mark Espinoza, Anthony B. Walker, Jose F. Espinal. Agents with the U.S. Department of State, Diplomatic Security Service. U.S. Embassy in Panama City – Juan Arturo Rawlins. Panama City Police – Officer Pablo Icaza. Servicio Nacional de Migracion in Panama – Eyda Man’a Garcia. NY/NJ Port Authority PD – Sgt. James Ryan

Assistant District Attorneys Brendan Ahern and Michael Bushwack of DA Rice’s Vehicular Crimes Bureau and Assistant District Attorney Jacqueline R‎osenblum of DA Rice’s Appeals Bureau prosecuted the case. Barba is represented by John Kase, Esq. and Jonathan Marks, Esq.

Editor's Comment: Yet another case. Anyone who is an international fugitive should know by now. Taking a flight that connects through Panama means your passport will be checked, you will be arrested, and returned to face justice. There have been like dozens of these sorts of cases - guys who get popped in Panama and flown back in chains. Glad to see this particular scumbag is in prison.

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American Tour Guide Operator Shot in Bocas del Toro

Expat TalesBy Don Winner for - American citizen Adam Ledford, one of the owners of the Cacique Adventure Tour Company, was shot three times while walking up the public boat ramp in Bocas del Toro, at 3:30 am during the early morning hours of Thursday, 27 February 2014.

Adam is now in the Santo Tomas hospital, and he desperately needs help to pay for surgery to remove a bullet from his hip.

Adam was an innocent bystander in an attempted murder of a local drug dealer - quite literally in the wrong place at the wrong time.

He had just finished working at a bar on Isla Carenero and was returning home. He took a water taxi from Isla Carenero to Isla Colon, and was walking up the public ramp, located right next to the headquarters of the National Police. He was looking down at his cell phone as he was walking.

Suddenly he heard a noise. He looked up to see a "fat man" running at him with a look of abject terror in his eyes. This was the local drug dealer who had just recently - days before - stabbed another drug dealer in a bar. The "fat man" bounced off of Adam and went running. Adam could see a silhouette of another man who had a pistol in his hand, when he opened fire. All of the bullets that were being aimed at "fat man" hit Adam (except for one, which apparently went into the ocean). The target of the shooting was unharmed. Everyone scattered, as Adam lie bleeding.

That started a chain of events you won't believe, unless you've lived in Panama for a long time.

Adam was first taken to the health clinic on Isla Colon in Bocas del Toro. He laid there for four hours until the x-ray technician came in to work. Once they took an x-ray, they determined he needed to be transferred to the hospital in Changuinola.

Once in Changuinola, the nurses dropped him into a wheelchair, and then basically ignored him for 36 hours. Realizing nothing would be done for him there, he eventually discharged himself, returned via water taxi to Isla Colon, and then managed to get himself on a flight to Panama City. There are a lot more details here, but suffice it to say he did all of this after having been shot three times, with a bullet lodged in his hip and pressing against the nerve, making his lower leg useless.

Now that he's in the Santo Tomas hospital, the doctors there are saying they will be more than happy to operate on him, however he will need about $4,000 to pay for the medical supplies needed for the operation, and things like the metal plate that needs to be screwed into his shattered hip socket.

I spoke to Adam, and he is currently talking to a friend who has a PayPal account, who will be receiving donations on his behalf.

Editor's Comment: The earlier article about the shooting in Changuinola - that was a different guy, and this was a different shooting. Adam was actually at the hospital in Changuinola when the guy who died from that shooting was taken to the hospital. So see? I hate making assumptions. Anyway, I'll be starting a fundraising effort to help Adam pay for his surgery, once the details are in place.

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Panama logs murder charges in Dana Point woman's death

Expat TalesBY LINDSEY RUTA / STAFF WRITER - A Panamanian prosecutor has formally filed murder charges against ex-Marine Brian Brimager in the death of Yvonne Baldelli, according to English language website, which covers the country.

The charges come nearly six months after the remains of the Dana Point woman were found in a green, military-style backpack on Isla Carenero. Panamanian authorities had previously mentioned Brimager as a person of interest in Baldelli's disappearance.

In June, Brimager was arrested in the U.S. on charges of obstruction of justice and making a false statement to a federal officer.

He is in federal custody in San Diego, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Two new charges of falsifying records have been added to his indictment.

The murder indictment alleges Brimager killed Baldelli in 2011 and then tried to cover it up by several means, including disposing of a bloody mattress, later posing as Baldelli in emails to her friends and family, and withdrawing money from her bank account in Costa Rica to make it appear she had gone to that country.

He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Baldelli disappeared in November 2011, two months after moving to Panama with Brimager, who was her boyfriend at the time. Brimager, 37, returned to the U.S. in December 2011 and married another woman later that month.

Panama is seeking to extradite Brimager to stand trial for the killing. The country has an international treaty with the U.S. that dates back to 1903.

The treaty does allow for extradition.

However, this would be the first time Panama has ever filed a request, reported.

Contact the writer: 949-432-5686 or

Editor's Comment: Here's the funny way this went down. My sources told me the prosecutor had, in fact, filed murder charges against Brimager and was in the process of coordinating with the US embassy to file for his extradition, back to Panama. After I published the article, a reporter from the La Prensa newspaper contacted the prosecutor to ask about the charges. Here's the kicker - the prosecutor lied to the reporter, and that's what the reporter published - that charges had not yet been filed.

However the truth and fact remains that the prosecutor in Panama has, in fact, filed formal and official murder charges against Brimager for the death of Yvonne Baldelli.

I was able to get confirmation through other very reliable sources. I'm assuming the prosecutor might have been worried that if word got out too soon, somehow the extradition process might get screwed up (or whatever). Or maybe the US embassy told her to sit on it.

Before I got involved in this case the US Embassy in Panama explicitly told Baldelli's family members "whatever you do, don't call Don Winner from Panama Guide..." Probably because I tend to make them look very bad, especially during murder investigations. As soon as I started investigating the case (because the family decided to ignore their advice), loads of resources suddenly became available. Go figure ... But I take credit for nothing. Lots of people have worked many long hours on this case both in Panama and in the United States. I just hope maybe I was able to spur them on a little, in the beginning.

No matter. The story is right. Brimager has been charged with murder in Panama, and now the Panamanian authorities are working to have him returned to Panama to face justice. I'm personally convinced he's guilty, so I hope he will spend the rest of his life in a Panamanian hellhole of a prison. Just like William Dathan Holbert, Laura Michelle Reese, Javier Martin, and Daniel Moreno Melendez - others who have murdered Americans in Panama. A little, uncomfortable metal box. Just enough food to keep him alive. No air conditioning, hot and humid and tropical (the same conditions the Panamanian inmates endure, he's no better than them.) Prison is supposed to suck. I hope he reads this, and stays up at night thinking about the hole that's waiting for him...

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Canadian Expat Maeva Beauzile Critically Sick - Fundraising Effort

Expat TalesBy Don Winner for - Maeva Beauzile is a Canadian citizen who is in critical condition. She's 21 years old. Maeva came to Panama from Canada to teach French. She fell ill two weeks ago. It started with a fever, and she was admitted to the Santo Tomas hospital. They thought it was dengue. Then they thought she had a stroke. Then they suspected endocarditis...

To put it bluntly, the Panamanian doctors were unable to properly diagnose and treat her illness, and her condition worsened. Eventually she was admitted to the ICU and her family realized they would have to medically evacuate her back to Canada, so she could receive proper medical care. If they didn't get her out of there, she would die.

Friends and family started a fundraising effort. So far more than $26,000 has been raised. A goal of $45,000 has been established.

The money will be used to pay for the cost of the medical evacuation (very expensive), and to help offset the costs being incurred by her family members who remain by her side.

Please click on this link and donate.

I did some quick vetting on this, and it appears to be real, genuine, and authentic. FYI there's a YouTube video of Maeva that's being used as part of this fundraising effort. It was shot before she got sick when she was working at a language school in Casco, but they don't tell you that anywhere. So you look at the video and wonder "what's wrong with her." Well, she's very sick and currently unconscious. She apparently has some sort of heart infection, and will require surgery.

Editor's Comment: Do what you can. Toss some Balboas into the can. Spread the word. Share the links. Do what you can to help, even if you don't have deep pockets. If you've got deep pockets, write a check. Thanks. I know my readers flat out rock, and you guys know I almost never ask you to help on stuff like this. Just once every three years or so...

Copyright 2013

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Prosecutor Considering Charging Brimager

Expat TalesThe murder of the American woman Yvonne Lee Baldelli, who disappeared in November 2011 in Bocas del Toro, could be a case of either domestic violence or robbery, for the theft of her credit cards, so prosecutors are considering charging her boyfriend for the crime.

This was announced by the Superior Prosecutor of Bocas del Toro, Vielka Broce, who said these are the two main theories they are developing after the investigation they have conducted.

Broce said her office received legal assistance from the United States to confirm the link between Baldelli and her partner Brian Brimager.

The official explained they have also taken testimony from some of the neighbors who lived near where the couple were staying, who claim to have heard some disputes between them.

She said the evidence of theft was generated when Brimager used Baldelli's credit cards in Costa Rica, so therefore that is a possible motive they have not discarded.

Baldelli's body was found on August 21, 2013, almost nine months after her disappearance, by a group of fishermen in a secluded spot on Isla Carenero in Bocas del Toro, in a military-type bag. The remains of the victim were identified by a comparison with the parental DNA and samples taken from the remains. (Prensa)

Editor's Comment: OK, so my source was a little premature. Last week when I saw an article in the US press saying Brimager had been charged in San Diego with two additional counts by US authorities, I reached out to one of my contacts who is close to the case. I was told the prosecutor had already charged Brimager with murder, and was working to coordinate the details related to his extradition.

Apparently, as a result of my earlier article saying Brimager had been charged with murder by the prosecutor, the Panamanian reporters contacted Broce to confirm. Her answer in this article basically says they're close, but they have not charged him yet.

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Panamanian Authorities Charge Brian Brimager With Murder

Expat Tales By Don Winner for - Last week the Superior Prosecutor in Changuinola, Vielka Broce, filed former murder charges against the American Brian Brimager, for the death of his girlfriend Yvonne Baldelli, and they are now moving to extradite Brimager from the United States to Panama to face those charges.

A local worker found Baldelli's remains in August 2013 on Isla Carenero. She had been partially dismembered and stuffed into a green military style backpack, similar to one issued to Brimager, a former Marine.

Panamanian prosecutors have been coordinating closely with the Legal Attaché of the US Embassy in Panama for months, after the discovery of Baldelli's remains, in order to pursue Brimager's extradition from the San Diego area of California in the United States - where he remains in prison facing charges of obstruction of justice, giving false statements to a federal officer, and falsifying records - all related to his elaborate attempts to cover up his involvement in Baldelli's murder.

An International Treaty between the United States and Panama signed in 1903 allows for the extradition of US citizens to Panama to face justice, however this will apparently be the first time Panama has ever formally requested extradition.

Law enforcement and judicial authorities from both Panama and the United States are proceeding slowly and carefully, making sure to account for every required step and action, anticipating a legal challenge by Brimager's attorneys in the United States to attempt to prevent the extradition from taking place.

Panamanian authorities are currently coordinating through their Foreign Ministry to process the proper paperwork, in order to formally and officially present their request for Brimager's extradition to their counterparts in the United States.

It is anticipated the request will be presented in the coming days or weeks.

Editor's Comment: The public jail in Changuinola is paradoxically known to the local Panamanians as "California" - because that's the name of the little neighborhood where it's located, close to the border with Costa Rica on the Caribbean coast.

Back when the serial killers William Dathan Holbert and his accomplice Laura Michelle Reese were arrested for having murdered five people in Bocas del Toro, the Superior Prosecutor for the province was located in the city of David. That's why Holbert is being held in David, because the prosecutor there is still handling those cases.

Since then, however, the Panamanian authorities have created and staffed a new Office of the Superior Prosecutor in Changuinola, responsible for the province of Bocas del Toro. So, after Brimager lands in Panama in handcuffs, he will be transported straight to the "California" prison there. There, he can check out any time, but he will probably never leave...

One more thing - I'm breaking this story, and no one else has this yet. To any new outlets who would like to pick this up - go ahead and use whatever you want from this article (permission granted) as long as you give credit to this website, and cite the full URL - "". Many thanks.

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New charges filed in Panama slaying case

Expat TalesBy Kristina Davis (SAN DIEGO) New obstruction charges have been filed against a Vista man accused of killing his girlfriend on a Panamanian island.

Brian Brimager, 37, pleaded not guilty to the new charges in San Diego federal court Friday.

The former Marine is accused of killing 42-year-old Yvonne Baldelli on Isla Carenero in 2011, then disposing of her body and embarking on an elaborate cover-up.

The couple had moved to the small Caribbean island from Orange County to start a new life, but the relationship turned rocky, according to court documents.

Baldelli’s remains were discovered in August in a swampy area of the island, in a zipped green military-style bag.

In June — before the remains had been found — Brimager was charged by the U.S. Attorney’s Office with obstruction of justice and giving false statements to a federal officer. This week, two counts of falsifying records were added.

The indictment said Brimager hacked into Baldelli’s email and wrote messages to her friends and family to make it seem as though she was still alive. One email stated she was very happy and had gone to Costa Rica with another man.

Authorities said that after the slaying, Brimager returned to San Diego County, where he married the mother of his young daughter weeks later.

Brimager’s attorney, Brad Patton, has filed a motion to dismiss the charges, arguing the FBI investigation his client is accused of obstructing does not qualify as an “official proceeding” under the law.

Patton said in court that he plans to file an amended motion in light of the new charges. Those motions are expected to be argued in March.

Now that Baldelli’s remains have been found, Panama authorities are working to charge Brimager with murder and domestic violence, said Baldelli’s father, James Faust.

It’s his hope that Brimager will be found guilty of the obstruction charges in the U.S., then extradited to face more serious charges in Panama.

“What we’d like to see happen is for him to be brought to justice, for Yvonne’s sake,” Faust said after the hearing, which was attended by several friends and family members. (

Editor's Comment: See my next article about Brimager...

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Justin Bieber Hanging Out At Travis Pastrana's Nitro City in Panama After DUI Bust

Expat TalesThe Canadian artist Justin Bieber was spotted at the Nitro City hotel in Punta Chame today, Saturday, 25 January 2014.

The Canadian singer has selected Panama to relax after being arrested.

The young man was seen in the company of other young people and their bodyguards.

On Thursday 23 January Bieber was arrested in Miami for driving under the influence of alcohol and for illegally racing cars.

He was released after paying bail of $2,500. (TVN)

Editor's Comment: Well, at least he knows where to go. Nitro City rocks...

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Justin Bieber takes refuge in Panama after being imprisoned in Miami

Expat TalesAfter being detained, the Canadian singer Justin Bieber decided to relax a bit and chose Panama - the teen idol took refuge in a luxury resort located in Punta Chame, in the Republic of Panama.

Justin was seen by several people enjoying the waters of teh Pacific ocean in Panama, in the company of a girl and two young men.

The singer was at all times in the company of his bodyguards.

On Thursday, the Canadian made ​​headlines again when he was arrested in Miami for driving under the influence of alcohol. He was released after paying a $2,500 bond. (Telemetro)

Editor's Comment: I would rather talk about how interesting are the bubbles produced by the sludge under an outhouse. I refuse. I will not succumb to the news media's fascination with this little shit. Hey, wait a minute. There's a chick in a bikini there. Better photos, please? Back in October 2013 there were stories about how Bieber supposedly had sex with a gaggle of Panamanian prostitutes. What a dumb-ass; everyone knows the Colombian prostitutes are a whole lot hotter...

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Date Set For Trial of Javier Martin For The Murder of American Expat Don North

Expat TalesBy Don Winner for - The judge responsible for the trial of the Spaniard Javier Martin, for the murder of the American expat Don North, has established a date for the trial.

The hearing will be held on Wednesday, 16 April 2014, starting at 10:00 am.

Initially Javier Martin's lawyer had asked the justice system to "accumulate" or combine the two cases.

Javier Martin is accused of having killed both the American expat Don North, as well as the Frenchman Jean Pierre Bouhard, in early 2011.

Previously, defendants who have been accused of multiple homicides could try to get shorter sentences by having those cases heard during one single trial. In Spanish they use the word meaning "accumulate" when discussing these things, but what they really mean is to combine the two or more trials into one big trial.

However, recently Panamanian criminal law has changed. Defendants can no longer receive shorter sentences when two or more murder trials are combined. Therefore, Javier Martin's lawyer has desisted or dropped the request he filed previously, to have the two cases combined.

On 16 April 2014 Javier Martin will be tried only for the murder of the American Don North. So far the judge responsible for the case involving the murder of the Frenchman Jean Pierre Bouhard has not yet established a trial date.

As you might recall, Don North disappeared from his sailboat in the San Blas islands in January 2011. Shortly thereafter, the body of Jean Pierre Bouhard came floating to the surface of the ocean near Portobelo. Bouhard had been murdered, and his body had been tied to an anchor and thrown into the ocean.

Friends of Don North contacted me on Thursday, 10 February 2011, to let me know they thought something was wrong. They put me into contact with North's nephew, Ezra North. He immediately flew to Panama, and I helped him file an official complaint with the Panamanian authorities on Friday, 11 February 2011. The next day, on Saturday, we went with the DIJ and FBI agents to the area of Portobelo, to search for Javier Martin. Nothing happened on Sunday. Then on Monday, 14 February 2011 - Valentine's Day - I called an impromptu press conference outside of the offices of the DIJ and announced to the Panamanian media that we were looking for Javier Martin as a suspect serial killer, in the murders of Jean Pierre Bouhard and Don North. Martin's photo aired on the channel 2 TVN news broadcast at 12:00 noon that day.

Little did we know that a clerk in a hostel in the Darien was watching that broadcast. As she was watching the news, Javier Martin was standing right there beside her in the hallway (he could not see the television screen from where he was). He was hitting on her, and trying to talk her into coming up to his hotel room with her. She recognized him, and called the police. He was arrested that afternoon.

So, it was four days. From first hearing about the case on a Thursday, and getting the murderer in handcuffs on Monday afternoon. The case was later profiled on the CBS 48 Hours Mystery program "Dark Side of Paradise" which originally aired in February 2012.

There is a ton (almost literally) of evidence against Javier Martin. He did it, he's guilty. Now there's only the formality of the trial to go through. He will never set foot outside of a prison, for the rest of his life. He will die in La Joya, eventually.

I'm glad the slow moving Panamanian justice system is finally setting a trial date for Javier Martin. Now maybe this will help Don North's family members to put this behind them.

There are a ton of related articles. You can do searches on the website for "Don North" or "Javier Martin". Here's a list from Feb 2011;
















Copyright 2013

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O.C. man accused of stealing nearly $3 million arrested in Panama

Expat TalesBy Paloma Esquivel - A Newport Beach man who prosecutors say ran a Ponzi scheme that stole nearly $3 million from investors has been extradited from Panama to face trial in Orange County.

Thomas F. Tarbutton allegedly fled to Brazil in 2011 after charges were filed and a warrant was issued for his arrest, according to a statement by the Orange County district attorney’s office.

Tarbutton flew to Panama this month and was arrested by Panamanian authorities this week. He was returned to California on Tuesday.

According to prosecutors, starting in 2004, Tarbutton ran a real estate scheme in which investors were told their money would be used to provide loans to people buying properties. He then allegedly gave investors forged documents showing they held liens on properties and gave them fraudulent documents showing money from mortgage payments was being invested.

Tarbutton allegedly gave investors small interest payments to make them less inclined to investigate the scheme.

But when the real estate market collapsed, he stopped all payments, according to prosecutors.

Tarbutton, 54, is charged with 29 felonies including grand theft and forgery. He faces up to 30 years and eight months in state prison if convicted.

He is being held at Men’s Central Jail in Santa Ana and is scheduled to be arraigned Thursday. (

Editor's Comment: Sounds like yet another case of a guy who was wanted by the US, who was dumb enough to fly to Panama for a connecting flight or something. Sooner or later the crooks of the world will wake up to the fact that the Panamanian immigration officials are now (right now) scanning the passport of every single passenger who arrives at the Tocumen International Airport, and checking them against outstanding wants and warrants. If they are wanted by the US they are placed under arrest immediately. This guy "fled to Brazil" but then was arrested in Panama. There have been several (many) cases of criminals with outstanding warrants being arrested - even though they were just flying on Copa with a connecting flight to Europe or something. Panama - the 51st state. For all you crooks out there the route to Europe from Brazil goes through Bolivia (commies), then Venezuela (commies), then Cuba (old commies), then Aeroflot to somewhere cold...

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Where In The World Is Francisco Armani? Asia...

Expat TalesBy Don Winner for - Remember that dirtbag Francsico Armani who tried to steal the funds we raised to help a family that had been devastated by a landslide? Well, he's in Thailand right now. I just received this:

"Hi Don, We need to speak urgently regarding Francisco Armani or should I say Joseph as I know him. I live in Thailand and this guy was staying in our house only 2 weeks ago. His latest scam is to pretend he is on to a big investment via a movie production and needs people to help him on a new catamaran. I have alot of info, photos and stories to tell you. Plus i roughly know where he is in Thailand right now."

Editor's Comment: This piece of crap has been traveling the world, scamming people as he goes. He always rips them off for small numbers - the cost of a couple of days stay at a hostel, a bar or restaurant tab, or what have you. He's a serial scam artist who has made his way through Latin America, moved on through Europe, and now he's in Asia. Sooner or later someone will catch up to him in a big way...

Copyright 2013

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Editor Of The Newspaper 'The Visitor' Dies After Falling From Building

Expat TalesThe Homicide Division of the Directorate of Judicial Investigation (DIJ) is investigating the death of Jacob Erhler, a journalist specializing in tourism for The Visitor weekly newspaper.

According to police reports, Erhler fell from the 30th floor of a building in Punta Patilla on Thursday, November 28th during a party.

Reports say the victim hit the fourth floor parking garage area.

So far investigators still do not know why he fell from the building. (Prensa)

Editor's Comment: And once again, the Panamanian journalists can't even get the name right of a foreigner who died...

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Jacob Ehrler - Editor of "The Visitor" - Falls To His Death In Paitilla

Expat Tales By Don Winner for - Jacob Ehrler, the Editor of The Visitor in Panama, died on Thursday evening, 28 November 2013, after falling from an apartment on the 30th floor of a building in the Paitilla neighborhood of Panama City, Panama. Jacob was attending a Thanksgiving Day party at the time of his death.

Detectives from the Panamanian National Police and investigators from the prosecutor's office of the Public Ministry are investigating Jacob's death, which appears on the surface to have been accidental. Toxicology and autopsy results are pending.

I knew Jacob personally, and ran into him not too long ago when we were both auditioning for the same part in a television commercial (neither of us were selected.) During the encounter Jacob told me a wild story about how someone broke into his apartment and tried to kill him, and he escaped by leaping out of a window (and he broke his leg or ankle in the process). In fact, if I remember correctly he was still wearing the cast at the time. I forget most of the details of what he told me. I remember it was a wild tale, and now I'm both wondering if it's possibly related in anyway way to his death, while simultaneously trying to pull the details out of the muck of the back of my brain. I figure the odds are slim - and that Jacob's death was probably just a dumb (bad) luck slip and fall accident - but still it might be worth the investigator's time to revisit the details of that earlier incident. Jacob told me it was all reported at the time, so at least there should be a record of it somewhere.

Jacob and I were both selected as two of "The 9 Most Influential Foreigners in Panama" in an article published in June of last year. We occasionally compared notes and shared information when necessary or appropriate for news related items - but mostly The Visitor does soft and noncontroversial tourist related sorts of articles, while I tend to look for ways to stick my nose, fingers, tongue, and other body parts into the fan whenever possible. So we had similar jobs with greatly different editorial approaches - and we respected one another on a professional level.

Jacob was all over Panama City, as a young and unmarried single guy, and the Editor of The Visitor, he was frequently seen on the party circuit.

Jacob was and Assistant Broker at The Corcoran Group in Manhattan before moving to Panama.

I would like to extend my heartfelt condolences to Jacob's friends and family members for their loss.

Copyright 2013

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A Canadian Tourist Was Robbed In San Francisco

Expat TalesThe Canadian tourist Matheus Galantt, of 36 years old, was shot and mugged on Tuesday night, in San Francisco.

The victim explained he was next to the Tomás Gabriel Duque road, past the Club Union, in San Francisco, when he stopped a cab in which three people were also traveling and he was mugged by them.

According to the foreigner, the criminals threatened to kill him and took his money, he did not specify how much.

He also explained they took his iPhone as well.

Once he was robbed, the criminals shot him in his right hand, where he was barely touched by it, but the bullet went through his left hand.

No one has been arrested for this crime. (Critica)

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DIJ Is Still Searching For Bob Ehlert, Who Went Missing In June

Expat TalesThe director of the Judicial Investigation Department (DIJ), Manuel Castillo, denied they have suspended the search of Robert Ehlert, 71-year-old American, who went missing on June 21.

However, Castillo did not set a specific date in which, together with the Federal Bureau Investigations (FBI), they will fly over certain areas Ehlert used to frequent.

He also said private investigators were hired by the family of Ehlert, who are also working on this case.

Castillo said the investigations have covered properties and a vessel owned by Robert Ehlert, a.k.a. Bob.

Ehlert lived in an apartment in the area of San Francisco, in Panama, by the time he went missing.

On the other hand, Castillo denied that kidnapping cases have increased during this year. (Prensa)

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