COSTA RICA NEWS – The notary Kattia Salas Guevara will be spending the next 18 years behind bars after being convicted for arranging 25 “paper” marriages in 2006.
San José Trial Court judges Ana Patricia Araya, Aisen Herrera and Lorena Blanco, on Thursday imposed the penalty of six years in prison for each phony marriage, for a total of 150 years.
However, in accordance with rules of procedure, the time in prison is limited to not more than three times the largest sentence, the actual prison time will be 18 years.
The sentence was read out in a courtroom packed with victims finding out they were married to people they never knew and without their consent.
This was the second trial for the notary.
In 2012, she was found guilty on 31 countes and sentenced to 186 years (also reduced to 18 years). After spending six months in preventive detention, the Court of Appeals overturned the sentence and she was released on August 23, 2012.
The Fiscalia (Prosecutor’s office) appealed and won a new trial hearing.
In addition to the prison time, the notary was also ordered to pay ¢1 million colones to each of the five victims who made a claim for compensation for moral damage caused by the false marriage.
Salas Guevara will be spending the next eight months in preventive detention, allowing for any appeals.
“Phony”, “arranged” or “paper” marriages are not new in Costa Rica, many foreigners looking for residency or nationalization opted for this type of arrangement, in most cases not knowing or ever meeting their Costa Rican spouse, who in many cases did not know their identity was being used for the marriage.
Stories of Costa Ricans, both male and female, fill the pages of news reports over the last two decades, many finding out when they went to register their real marriage, others requesting information from the civil registry.
The process was and still is very simple. Contrary to the popular belief by many foreigners, there is no need for a lawyer – a notary public will do.
To register the marriage, all that is required is identification, the fee and a trip (by the notary) to the registry office. In arranged or “paper” marriages, the notary or lawyer provided the “spouse”, in most cases only a copy of the spouse’s of identification.
That is not to say that all “paper” marriages were that way, many a Costa Rican willingly, for payment of a few thousand colones to hundreds of dollars, would take part in the sham marriage. Some even providing assistance to the foreigner to attain residency.
One of the more public cases of such a marriage (see our report: “Bought” Marriages Protect Foreigners From Being Extradited) was that of one of the founders of Liberty Reserve, Arthur Budovsky, who marriage a street vendor outside the immigration offices to obtain residency and nationalization in Costa Rica.