I was growing quite tired of working at call centers as each day I spent there I felt like I was losing my mind, intelligence and self-respect all at one time. I saw that college diploma collecting dust and I needed a job where I felt like I could use my intelligence and skills in an environment where I was not surrounded by wanna be thugs and people that’s dreams were to work at these call centers forever. I was beginning to think that Costa Rica is where you go to have your dreams die and the chance to make it in the country is few and far between.
So I jumped back on Craigslist and began another search for a job. Although I knew I could easily get another job at a sportsbook or another job making calls in English I wanted something better where I could at least try to save some of my self-respect which seemed to be disappearing like the drugs up my nose. After applying to jobs over about a week I obtained an interview with a real estate project in Costa Rica that wanted to combine a health resort and spa with a luxury experience in Costa Rica in the middle of nowhere. This project was trying to get going at the very end of the real estate boom in Costa Rica and was basing its success on selling the lots to generate the revenue for project. Very few projects have succeeded with this business model in place, except during the real estate boom in Costa Rica. Most of the projects that succeeded during this lull in the market only made it if they were able to build themselves and then sell the end product. The project had little to no chance of success, but they hired me to try to help with their marketing.
This was my first marketing job and right away fell in love with the idea and tried to learn as much as possible. Although the salary was not good I enjoyed getting up and going to work and the experience I was gaining was worth more than the money. I had always enjoyed marketing classes in college and knew how important it was with competition so fierce in every industry. I was starting to use my intelligence again and although I knew that the project had no chance it was great obtaining as much knowledge as possible.
In a matter of 2 months I was being used by 2 companies both the project and a real estate company that was located a few doors down. They were splitting my salary as the project was not bringing in any capital. I was bringing in leads for the project but they were not good at the close. In my spare time I learned website design and made a site for the real estate company. My knowledge was expanding and with each new thing I did I knew these skills would become important assets later in life.
After 3 months, since the project had been trying to generate capital for 2 years and failed it was going to be shut down like so many projects in Costa Rica that started during these years when the demand for real estate in Costa Rica started to falter. I was to be full time at the real estate company. I was happy to just have a job.
It was at this time that the real estate company owner Vince said that we would be marketing a great investment opportunity in Nicaragua. He had teamed up with a guy named Val Pacheco out of Nicaragua that he had known for a while. I was sent various emails over the next few days to explain the project and the “investment opportunity.”
The company was called Valcor and was based out of Nicaragua. The gist of the project was that we were going to be selling shares of ownership of concessions in an area of Nicaragua where there was downed trees from Hurricane Felix. Val was going to being his knowledge of the timber industry and his contacts in Nicaragua to allow us to harvest these downed trees into timber to be shipped out of the country and also use a portion of the profits to help the indigenous tribes in the area rebuild their homes and lives. For a $10,000 investment expected ROI was about 100% over the first 18 months and more down the road. This project sounded incredible to me as I saw a chance to make money but most importantly help people.
Although I had my doubts on the legitimacy of the project I received legal documents from the lawyer in Nicaragua. We had a lawyer on board in Costa Rica. There were pictures and so much more evidence to support the validity of the investment. With so much information I began putting together the marketing, designing the website, and getting ready to start pushing sales for the timber project.
With all of that in place we bought about 10,000 leads from Paragon (another real estate scam in Costa Rica). I needed to hire a couple of sales people under me to start calling and bringing in leads. Being that Kristy was in need of a job I hired her and another friend of mine that I knew would do a good job. Just an FYI, do not hire a girl you are dating if you are having relationship problems and you are to be her boss. It does not work in anyway or fashion. Considering we were only getting $100 per $10,000 share we sold it did not seem like this was a scam.
Although there was a little bit of office drama the marketing and sales set up worked like a charm. Over about the first 7 months we had raised about $600,000 for the project. At this time everything looked legit as they had purchased a timber yard and were putting me in charge of getting buyers for the timber. It seemed that everything was getting put in place to start paying the investors their dividends on their investments at the end of that 12 month cycle as promised.
I had also contacted a large Canadian Company, who was interested in both purchasing multiple containers of wood and investing close to $5 Million dollars. Oh course if they wanted to do that it requires a trip down to Nicaragua and I was not going to miss this opportunity to go and see the project and meet these clients. I knew that closing this deal would set me financially for a while. So with excitement I headed to Nicaragua.
Upon arrival I was picked up by Val at the bus stop in Managua. From the time I arrived red flags were all over the place. Val brought me back to his house at which time since he had asked if I had done coke when he came to Costa Rica, cut 3 lines to do on the desk in his house. His wife, although beautiful, looked like a prostitute. With the investors coming in the next day, all of us hit the town for a party until about 3 am. Not exactly how I would prepare for a large investor coming in for a meeting.
The next day we headed to meet the investors a meeting that to which we arrived about 45 minutes late. We then visited the timber yard that was supposedly owned by the company. Which by the reaction of the people working there, it seemed like Val had paid them to pretend that he was the owner. Added to that was the fact that the timber in the yard, which I was selling was ready to be shipped out and one of my buyers was still awaiting his shipment to go to port for about 2 weeks.
The investors also had their own contacts in Nicaragua which I do not think Val had accounted for. The following day they were supposed to take a flight to go see the concession and there was engine trouble in the airplane and they were unable to go. I was ready to go back to Costa Rica but needed to confirm what I already knew.
I sat down with one of the investors in private while Val tried to charm the others into investing. I asked him what they had found out and were they going to invest. He told me straight that they had found out Val and his company Valcor did not own these concessions and that the documents had been falsified by the lawyer. They were going through their government contacts to arrange their own private investment through the appropriate channels. I was destroyed and knew that the entire investment and project had been a scam.
Upon returning to Costa Rica I told the sales people in private to not make any more calls and that the project was not real. I wanted them to get their paychecks but no more calls other than fake ones. I at this point started to develop a plan to try to get these people their money back which I knew would probably never happen, but I had to try.
Within 30 days of the team not bringing in any investment money and with Vince and Val spending the money that we had brought in like they had holes in their pockets, the office was shut down and I was sent to my current apartment with the Vonage phone to take investor calls and tell them that their dividends were coming soon.
I had already informed most of them that this was looking like a scam and had informed them that they needed to contact the SEC and report these thieves. The SEC of course did nothing. The legal system in Costa Rica did nothing. Although I was in touch with about 60% of the investors on a personal level I had to inform them that their money was gone.
The project was over and I was out of yet another job. So what did I do to get over it…….a nice little drug and alcohol binge. Kristy had left me and I was wondering why the hell I was staying in this country. All of the people I was interacting with were doing so because I was spending every last penny I had on partying and would share would anyone that would pretend to be my friend.
Advice and Info:
If you are going to invest in Costa Rica or any Central American country always come down and meet the people involved before you send a penny. Never send a deposit on a property. Always use your own lawyer. So many lawyers are paid by the projects and investments to say whatever the developer tells them to say. This goes for investments, real estate, businesses and anything that is asking for your money. You earned that money do not let some smooth talking scammer take it from you.
The 2 people that were the principles in this project were Vince Matlock in Costa Rica and Val Pacheco in Nicaragua. Vince Matlock is still living and working in Costa Rica and is free as whistle other than a having a big drinking problem (he interviewed with me on a project about 7 months back reeking of whisky). Val Pacheco is in Nicaraguan prison for being involved in some international drug sting. Karma is a bitch and Vince will hopefully one day reap his if he is not already.