They say Americans are experiencing the second generation of this scam. Federal agents disrupted the scheme in 2006 with a massive raid, conducted in concert with Costa Rican officials. The U.S. Department of Justice secured the convictions of 37 participants, including 50-year prison sentences for the ringleaders of the fraud. But some of those alleged to be part of the scheme remained in Costa Rica, out of reach of American law enforcement because they had gained Costa Rican citizenship. Authorities said the men who were left behind helped rekindle the scams.
ABC News tracked down two of the fugitives earlier this month. In interviews broadcast last week on Good Morning America and 20/20, wanted fugitives Roberto Fields Curtis and Andreas Leimer proclaimed their innocence – denying they were a part of the rip-offs.
Curtis told ABC News chief investigative correspondent Brian Ross that he was unwittingly involved, gathering cash from a Western Union he operated and delivering it to illegal call centers. He said he thought money was the product of sports betting, which is legal in Costa Rica. Leimer said his ex-wife was responsible for installing the internet phone technology at the illegal boiler rooms, not him.
Joe Gonzalez, an investigator with the United States Postal Inspection Service, told ABC News that he believes both men were lying. Gonzalez says the U.S. government has amassed ample evidence that the two men were both willing participants in the scam.