Driving in the DR, or Anatomy of Extortion in a Dominican Style
by Frank Wilman
It starts on a Thursday, Feb 26, 2015 when an unlicensed Dominican driving an unlicensed uninsured motorcycle rear ends an insured car driven by licensed expat driver making a legal left turn. In the car with me were my wife, daughter and 2 year old grandson.
The motorcycle driver is taken to the medical clinic next to the police station treated for cut and bruises and leaves without paying the bill. The police are called and the expat tourist accompanies them to the police station. The police investigate and tell the expat no problem, fairly straight forward obviously the motorcycles fault. Reports are being taken and signed off on. The report took about 4 hrs. (Just enough time for a local lawyer to produce a piece of official looking piece of paper with a lot of stamps on it.)
The Local lawyers have an arrangement with some police and they get tipped off when these things occur (Ambulance chasers. happens all over.) A local lawyer (we will call her Daisy) produces an affidavit stating that the motorcyclist was injured and was transported to the Puerto Plata hospital. This was not the case but was unknown at the time. This triggers a process (because of the erroneous reporting severity of the injury) where the police report and the Expat tourist has to travel to Sosua to be interviewed by the prosecutor.
No problem off we go with the policeman and a report that says it is the other person fault. In the meantime friends and my wife contact the Doctor at the clinic where the Motorcyclist was taken to check on his condition. Turns out he was not too badly hurt, and got up and walked out with paying his bill. No problem. We pay the bill and get a signed statement from the doctor stating the fellow left on his own power, bruised, but not badly hurt. We also stop by a local shop where the accident occurred. And recover a video of the accident from their security cameras.
Later we are now all in Sosua and the local lawyer (Daisy) presents her case to the local Prosecutor, Dilsia Taveras. The prosecutor ignores the police report and does not want to see the Video or the statement from the Doctor who treated the injured motorcyclist. She was only interested in where I stayed, if I was a Tourist, and when my flight out was booked for. She says there is no problem, but there is enough evidence of an injury that a hearing is required. She collects my passport and tells me to return tomorrow morning at 09:00 hrs. For the hearing. (Come into my web says the spider to the Fly). I was assured the judge at the hearing will dismiss the case.
During the time we were present at the court house my wife is observing the goings on. It occurs to her there are only Expats here, no Dominicans. It seems that only Expats break the law. We meet an Austrian couple staying at Perla Marina that had driven up from Bavaro three days before and planned to drive back the following day. Their door was side-swiped by a motochoncho driver, he had asked for money, they refused as in the rest of the free world, it would have been his fault and there was no damage to either vehicle. The Motochoncho driver feigned an injury, showed up with a lawyer, and off they went to the see the same prosecutor that I had just seen. The Austrian couple had been showing up each day for the last three days waiting for their hearing. They had contacted their Embassy in Santo doming and expected to be representative with a lawyer by the next morning…as they had a flight out from Bavaro on the coming Monday.
By this time the day is over and go home wondering what the hell happened to us. I play the days event back in my mind…all day police are telling me no problem, even the prosecutor tells me no problem. Then I ask myself if there is no problem then why do they have my passport and I’m going to court tomorrow and not the motorcyclist? I have worked ten years in third world counties and my sense tells me “Problem.”
I say to my wife, “we need help here. Something is going on other than a traffic accident.”
Fortunately one of wife’s nights out she has met a lawyer socially who had very impressive credentials who had impressed my wife very much.
We arrange to meet Marie at the court house at 08:30 the next morning. We chat with Austrian couple while Marie and the insurance companies lawyer hang about to see what the day’s proceedings are going to be, and the order that they have scheduled.
Marie comes back to me and says she has overheard the prosecutor and Daisy talking, Daisy wants a criminal case and 700,000 to 1 million peso bail requested ($28,000 CDN). Marie does not know what is going on, she suggests I get sick and go to her office. At this point I was ahead of her, I was already sick.
My wife stays and told the court I was sick and they would have to postpone. This was Friday and they postponed until Tuesday because Monday was a holiday. While my wife waits at the court for me to get called…again only Expats there at the court, She finds out that the Austrian couple with the help of their embassy and the rental car insurance company have come to a settlement in the case of the Motochoncho driver with the feigned injury. He will sign off for 4000 pesos. The insurance company agrees but because of it being Friday and Monday is a holiday he will not receive the money until Tuesday. He will not sign off until he receives the money. The Austrian Couple have to split up, she will make their flight, and he will stay behind, costing him another airfare.
My wife also then learns that Daisy (The lawyer after us) had successfully extorted 700,000 pesos from a French tourist a couple weeks before on behalf of another Motochoncho driver. Among Motochoncho drivers, Daisy is a legend, a Rock Star. Just hit a tourist that has a dead line to leave the Country and you can manipulate the court system to extort money from him or her. A Motochoncho driver can make more from one accident than he can in his lifetime even after Daisy’s 50% split.
Wow, this is turning into a very sophisticated racket. Starting by a heads up from the police, through the lawyer, all the way up to—and including the prosecutor. The prosecutor—by asking for astronomical bail—tells the Lawyer the amount of money available for the extortion.
What to do now?
After dissecting the process and events we realize this extortion will only work on tourists that has hard deadlines. If person has the time to remain in the country, go through the trial, the courts would eventually dismiss the case. Everyone is aware of this now, including us.
What now? Just do not show up for court was suggested and wait Daisy out. What will happen to me? It seems nothing: By not showing up at court I cannot be convicted of anything. If I’m not convicted then I’m not wanted for anything. Wrap you head around that.
Now I know why there were no Dominicans at the court. They have had this figured out long ago. They just hide out until things blow over.
All through this process I was constantly reassured at every stage this all was a formality, I did nothing wrong It was obviously the Motochoncho’s fault. The police report said so, the original meeting with the prosecutor said so. “Just show up for court and all will go away.” The Trap has been baited.
If it was not for my wife, her friend Carmen, and my very good lawyer sussing things out, I would have walked right into the trap. I had to return to work in a few days and not leaving the Island would have put my job in jeopardy. In that position, I would have also been exposed to paying the extortion asked.
I was fortunate that I carry two passports. I had read on the local blogs in this case many people advise leave the Island immediately. (Very Good Advice)
Here, some people will argue at this point that if you have premium insurance this cannot happen. Our insurance company says this should not happen, there was no fault on their insurance. I will say this would not happen on a level playing field, but here it can happen. Unless you are insured against extortion!
Remember the Austrian couple that had Avis rent a car with premium insurance, the insurance company’s lawyer and a representative from the Austrian embassy. The timing was still manipulated so the extortion was paid. He also had to pay for an additional flight home.
This is no longer about an accident or who is right or wrong, this is about “time”…and most tourists have more money than time. They have flights to catch and jobs to return to. They will pay.
I left a power of Attorney with my lawyer to allowing her to represent me and settle this matter however she saw fit. Then with the assistance of an attractive and talented “Coyote” (my wife), I left the Island to continue with my job. I did need to have a settlement for the following reasons: I wanted my passport back, I plan to return to the D.R. next year. I did not want the animosity of the Motochoncho driver’s family and I also did not want to see the Kid indebted to the Motochoncho mafia for a motorcycle he no longer owned.
Tuesday I did not show up for the hearing, my lawyer explained I was still ill and she had a power of attorney to represent me. The case was put off for three mores days. Daisy contacted my lawyer and said she could settle it for 500,000 pesos to her client and $5000 dollars to her. My lawyer told her that I was ill and in no hurry to settle. This went on for three weeks! Daisy shows up for court, I was not there and the case was put off again. (Daisy has to show up at every court date…if she does not, my lawyer will ask for a dismissal. If both parties are no longer interested that is usually granted to clear up the courts time.
The fourth week, Daisy is finally getting the hint, I’m not playing by the rules, I‘m not going to show up for court. Daisy now says she can settle now for $5000 for her and $5000 for her client. My Lawyer tells Daisy we are in no hurry to settle and I had only left 60,000 pesos to cover all costs. My lawyer says that she will be paid first from that amount. The more time Daisy wastes the less money there is for her and her client (the motoconcho).
It is not possible that the motoconcho has expenses greater than that. The insurance company’s lawyer tells Daisy that she will have to sue us if she wants money, and they all know that will not happen because she would lose because her client hit me (we even have a video of the accident).
Our lawyer tells Daisy if there are expenses please bring in the receipts. We paid the doctor bill and our investigator tells us the Motochoncho driver did not attend any other hospitable. He is at home hiding from the owner of the motorcycle he had wrecked. Other than Daisy’s time we cannot fathom any expenses. Other than the damage to the car.
They signed off on this for 50,000 pesos May 7, 2015. My Passport should be on its way to me. Daisy has all Motochoncho drivers signed up as clients and Medical injury declaration all prepared and if they are not injured they are to feign an injury. She is now running for Cabarete town council with support of Motochoncho drivers.
Charges dismissed June 2 by court Prosecutor Dilsia Taveras was directed to return my passport.
Source: Facebook Group
May 10, 2016
Category: DR Living |