Expat Arrested in Costa Rica for Identity Theft

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Costa Rica’s Immigration Police (Policia Profesional de Migracion, PPM) have arrested a Swiss citizen by the name of Heinz Augsburguer for swindle and other nonviolent crimes – all while using the stolen identity of Polish citizen Grzegorz Bugaj. Augsburguer has been living in San Jose since 2014, under the assumed name of Bugaj, and has opened bank accounts, credit cards, created sociedades anonimas, registered business endeavors in the Registro Nacional, joined the CAJA, and closed several business deals, both legal and illegal using Bugaj’s name. The police have been looking for Augsburguer since 2019, and finally arrested him last week in San Cristobal Norte. He is 58 years old. He was wanted in both Costa Rica and Switzerland for swindle and other crimes.

Augsburguer landed at Juan Santamaria Airport in Alajuela in 2014, and went through customs and immigration using the borrowed name of Bugaj. He was already wanted in Switzerland for various petty crimes, but that record disappeared upon his arrival in Costa Rica using his assumed new identity. He applied for Residency and bought a house and property, but it was his application for Permanent Residency that finally led authorities to his doorstep. His fingerprints did not match those in Interpol’s files for Augsbruguer, but in fact, belonged to a dead Polish citizen named Bugaj.

Augsbruguer’s neighbor Olger Chaves commented, “Trading and stealing identities seems to be quite common among foreigners in Costa Rica. They assume they will not be caught, but now with so much on file with Interpol and other international crime organizations, it has gotten easier for the authorities to catch them. I wonder if he was confused thinking he was in the real Switzerland, not the Switzerland of Central America.” (Costa Rica is sometimes referred to as the Switzerland of Central America.)
Augsburguer was captured on May 26 in his home in San Cristobal Norte, and has been placed in Preventive Detention for three months while awaiting trial. His primary crime in Switzerland was allegedly swindle, but his list of transgressions is considerably longer in Costa Rica, beginning with identity theft of Bugaj’s name and continuing with shady business dealings under a stolen name.

The Star has reported recently on other cases of identity theft among foreigners, and there are non-Costa Ricans serving time in prison for these crimes, including criminals who have built entire lives under someone else’s name –complete with wives, children, businesses, and properties. Others have been deported back to their countries of origin. It seems that Interpol is working more smoothly with local police to track and arrest these scofflaws.
Ausgsburguer’s cedula and residency status have been cancelled as he awaits sentencing and his trial.
Acording to MarketWatch regarding identity theft, “Stolen information can be combined with other personal information in any number of permutations. Criminals have proven adept at using the anonymity of digital channels to create new identities.” We see this trend on the rise in 2020.

It seems to have been much easier for Augsburguer to just adopt another person’s name and life, and move to another country to live anonymously and in peace.

About the Author :

Carol Blair Vaughn has written for Inside Costa Rica and The Costa Rica Star, as well as El
Residente magazine. She grew up in Latin America, traveling with her father Jack Vaughn,
former Assistant Secretary of State for Latin American Affairs, and US Ambassador to Panama
and Colombia. The Star published her book Crazy Jungle Love: Murder, Madness, Money & Monkeys
in 2017, and it is now available for purchase on Amazon as both a paperback and an
ebook.’

 

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