Most expats and Ticos alike remember the infamous death of multi-millionaire hedge fund manager John Felix Bender in Florida de Baru in 2010, and the subsequent three trials of Bender’s wife, Ann Patton Bender, for Intentional Homicide. The Bender case put the Southern Zone of Costa Rica in the international news spotlight, and its infamy was spread far and wide by extensive television coverage on CNN, 48 Hours, CBS, and in the local press, most notably The Costa Rica Star.
Ultimately, Ann Bender was released from all charges for insufficient evidence and less than state-of-the-art incriminating forensic proof. She now lives in the USA, where she has begun a new life, leaving behind the tragedy of her husband’s death and the loss of their shared fortune, estimated at $600 million.
Boracayan has now come up for sale, for a cool $25 million.
Boracayan in Spanish means … well, nothing. The Benders made up the word because they thought it sounded like an exotic Central American plant. The happy lives they hoped to have at Boracayan were also invented, and unfortunately, the dream went sideways when John ended up shot dead on January 8th, 2010, in their fourth floor bedroom, surrounded by 550 authentic and reproduction Tiffany lamps. John and Ann were the only ones present at the time of John’s death, with the elevator to their fourth floor retreat locked from inside the bedroom.
The sale of Boracayan is being handled by Keller Williams Realty, an American international real estate franchise with headquarters in Austin, Texas, but also several offices in Costa Rica specializing in luxury property sales. Keller Williams agents declined to be interviewed for this article.
According to Keller Williams sales and listing information (Which can be found by clicking on the link here), the Boracayan property is comprised of 850 hectares (2,000 acres) of available land, and includes four smaller houses for staff, as well as the estate’s crown jewel main house. That house is referred to locally as Bender Dome, but the realtors call it The Big House in their ads – certainly no reference to the many months Ann Bender spent in the “Big House”, El Buen Pastor Women’s Prison, accused of murdering her husband in cold blood.
Keller Williams states in their ads, “The Big House is a structural design example of architectural geometry, a modernistic floating temple … the main house conjures visions of a Bahai Temple and world renowned Ashrams.”
The house itself was designed by John Bender, and has no external walls and no windows, only storm screens that roll down at night. During the day, an amazing array of wild life wanders in and out freely, bringing to life the famous Latin expression of welcome: Mi casa es su casa, (My house is your house).
Construction of the house, including a moat and helipad, took four years and the labor of some 500 local workers. The land was purchased by the Benders in 1998 for $10 million, in a land grab that snapped up most of the subsistence farmers’ properties of the area.
The Bender estate is now up for sale at more than double the original price, but the property remains under the Shakespearean stain of John Bender’s death and the drama of murder, madness, money and monkeys.
Buying real estate in Costa Rica has always been a buyer beware proposition, and those who have done so successfully tend to use real estate firms closest to the site, and closest to the issues which could adversely affect the sale. A real estate agent who specializes in the Southern Zone of Costa Rica, and who has followed the Bender saga for years, Jane Gregson of Summerland Relocation Services, commented, “Ownership of property in Costa Rica always has the possibility of delivering endless joy and, while this one certainly is no exception, due diligence is the only appropriate road to avoid endless agony.”