According to a news report in the Spanish-language, Diario Extra an expat who styled himself as the “Costa Rica Private Investigator” is in the custody of immigration police, awaiting deportation to the United States.
Douglas Smith built a highly visible Internet presence through social media, branded as the Willspy Private Investigative Agency. Smith’s was found of saying, “one smart call in Costa Rica” in reference to jilted spouses who sought to catch a cheating husband. According to the article in La Extra, he charged up to $400 per day for his services.
More recently, Smith was in the news because he took credit for outing an expat perpetual tourist, Kirk Owen in Jaco for having a criminal record as a convicted sex offender. Owen was not charged with any crime in Costa Rica, but was asked to self-deport or face an lengthily immigration process from the inside of the immigration jail.
According to La Extra, Smith is not facing any criminal charges in Costa Rica but is being held at the immigration jail for foreigners in Hatillo. The article implies that Smith once had some type of residency or legal presence in Costa Rica, but that it had lapsed at the time of his arrest at Playa Herradura on the central Pacific Coast.
The report in Diario Extra was also clear that immigration police specifically sought out Smith, and that he was not caught in a routine or periodic immigration check. This is consistent with reports of other expats who have been targeted by immigration police for having an irregular immigration status in Costa Rica while operating a business with a substantial Internet or social media presence.
Many expats have been reluctant to obtain or renew their residency in Costa Rica due to a requirement to pay for national heath insurance. Payments are routinely $200 a month and even long time residents are having trouble with the new requirements. New applicants for residency are also being asked to supply comprehensive criminal histories from he FBI, along with fingerprints in the application process.
At present none of the changes affect occasional or even frequent visitors. However immigration in Costa Rica is now online with a federal database that provides detailed criminal histories on U.S. nationals. The system is that same one that Canadian official’s use to routinely refuse entry to visitors convicted of DUI offenses in the United States.