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  • joyofcolor
    Aug 6, 2014
      Here's an little article that will get you thinking....I am posting it in its entirety because the link to it on Google doesn't work, this is a google cache, and anyway it is on a page with several other articles and requires a lot of scrolling to find.

      U.S. man, 70, blames embassy for prolonging prison stay
      By Elise Sonray
      of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

      A U.S. man said he's trapped in prison because the U.S. Embassy won't give him a document he needs to prove he's paying child support.

      The man, Francis Vokoun who spent his 70th birthday in prison, said that his Costa Rican wife is not being truthful to the judge about the child support payments. All he needs to get out of jail, he said, is proof of payment from the U.S. Embassy.

      Vokoun receives a Social Security check from the United States every month and that check is sent to the U.S. Embassy. But only Vokoun's wife has access to the information regarding the child support payments, said an embassy spokeswoman.

      Vokoun needs to file a subpoena to get the information, stated the spokeswoman in an e-mail. She also cited the federal Privacy Act.

      �The problem is that, although Mr. Vokoun is the wage earner, he is NOT the beneficiary or the 'representative payee' of those benefits (ironically, his wife, who is the custodial parent, is the representative payee). Simply stated, his kids' benefits do not 'belong' to him, and the SSA cannot give him any information about those payments without authorization from the representative payee. Mr. Vokoun's only option for obtaining this information is to have the Costa Rican court issue a subpoena (in Spanish, a citaci�n) to the Social Security Administration asking for a 'verification of benefit.'" The subpoena can be served through the Federal Benefits Unit in Costa Rica, the spokesperson said.

      Vokoun's lawyer, Sara Arias Soto, said Sunday that the embassy employee was giving false information. Ms. Arias said she has spoken repeatedly with embassy employees who tell her they will look into her questions and get back to her but never do. �I always had a different impression of the embassy until now,� said Ms. Arias. �How can they
      help a Tica but allow one of their own citizens be shut in jail?� Ms. Arias also emphasized the fact that Vokoun is a senior citizen.

      Vokoun said he believed to file a subpoena would be extremely difficult and that six years ago the judge, contacted the embassy in an attempt to get the information but no one had given it to her.

      Vokoun said the judge he had in Escaz� has thrown many other men into prison for not paying their child support simply on the mother's statements. Ms. Arias made similar allegations. Two other men at the prison, La Reforma, talked to A.M. Costa Rica by telephone making similar allegations about the same judge, Zianny Calder�n Torres. Both of the men said they paid their child support and that the judge threw them in jail based on the testimonies' of their wives. Both of the men who are Costa Rican said they had been thrown in jail nearly a dozen times each.

      In Costa Rica, fathers who do not pay child support are usually sentenced to prison until they pay. Vokoun said many of the men there told him they owe less than $40.

      Vokoun believes he will be released Wednesday after six months. The U.S. Embassy spokesperson said he was sentenced nine months. Meanwhile, Vokoun said he must share one of three cold showers with 200 men and sleep on a 3-inch foam mattress. The prison is invested with rats and cockroaches, said Vokoun. �It's a chamber of horrors,� said the 70-year old, who also said someone steals his blood pressure medicine and sells it to other prisoners.

      Vokoun said now he prefers to buy the pills from the prison drug dealer rather than obtain them the legal way.

      According to Vokoun's former lawyer, Jorge Calvo Cascante, Vokoun's wife is now renting out Vokoun's property in Escaz� and living somewhere else. �When Francis first came to Costa Rica, his wife had him sign over the house and all his property into her name,� said Calvo. Vokoun had a large fish farm and a beautiful house in Escaz�, according to friends.

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