Sentenced to 30 years for kidnapping but released by Nicaragua in 2011, it did not take long for Julio Cesar Vega to find himself behind bars again. Vega seems to have an affinity for breaking laws in Costa Rica.

Archive photo
Archive photo

Vega caused a commotion here in 1996 when he kidnapped a young German tourist, Nicola Fleuchaus, and her Swiss-born naturalized Costa Rican companion, Susana Siegfried, holding them for 70 days before releasing them when their families and friends paid the ransom.

But the case created its impact here in a photo taken the day before their release, showing Fleuchaus passionately kissing Vega, the first time Costa Ricans had seen evidence of the so-called Stockholm syndrome in which captives become emotionally attached to their captors.

Vega led a team of four other Nicaraguans, all ex-Contra guerrillas who had fought during the 1980s to wrest the Sandinistas from their control of the Nicaraguan government. After receiving 40 million colones ransom, they released their captives on the Costa Rican side of the San Juan River.

The ex-guerrilla did not remain free long. The ransom was paid March 12, 1996, and Vega was captured in San Juan del Norte, Nicaragua, in April and turned over to Costa Rican justice. The next year he was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Under the Interamerican Convention of completion of sentences, he was released to Nicaragua in 2007 to serve the final part of his sentence which should have been up in 2020. But Nicaragua pardoned him in 2011 and it was not long before he was back in Costa Rica, working in construction in Curridabat.

In an interview here in prison in 2006, Vega, known as “Julio Loco,” he told the newspaper La Nacion that it was unlikely that the penal system could reform a prisoner. In his case, that appears to be true.

Now 50, Julio Loco was captured this week and accused of robbing at gunpoint cabins located at Esterilleros de Parrita, Puntarenas province, with two accomplices, both 48 years old and also Nicaraguans. The trio, pretending to be interested in renting a cabin, drew guns suddenly and held employees and guests captive, tying them up.

OIJ estimated their booty at 5 million colones in cell phones, computers and cash. After the assailants had left, an employee managed to loose himself and call the police who immediately closed off roads. When the assailant’s car reached on roadblock, there was an interchange of gunfire.

Vega and one accomplice were captured immediately but the third remained at large to be captured later. Some of the booty from the robbery was found in the car, police said. They were given four months of preventive prison.

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