Horse Scam...

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Don't you just hate it when you play by all the rules.  You do everything right but in the end you wind up getting screwed anyway.  The following is a true story.  I know it's true because it happened to a friend of mine here in Costa Rica. 

Only the names and locations were changed so as to prevent any future embarrassment being foist upon this poor innocent soul.

My friend and neighbor Wilbur, was an avid  enthusiast of the equestrian lifestyle back in the United States.  When Wilbur came to Costa Rica several years ago, he had this burning desire to get back on the saddle.  After several years of satisfying his equestrian urges renting his ride by the hour, Wilbur decided to pony up the bucks and finally buy a horse.

After much looking around, the stable trainer where Wilbur rents his horses told him of this two year old filly that was for sale.  Wilbur was so excited.  The trainer told him the horse was only $600, in perfect health and was available immediately.  Wilbur was about to make the huge leap from horse renter to horse owner.


Six hundred dollars seemed like a fair price for this horse.  No more renting,  Now Wilbur would become the proud owner of this equine bundle of joy and be able to ride whenever he feels the urge. 

Wilbur made an appointment to meet trainer, Pedro Ladron, to consummate the deal that next afternoon.  Wilbur and Seņor Ladron met at the stables and sealed the deal.  With cash in hand, Wilbur gave Ladron $600 in Costa Rican currency.   In turn, Ladron handed Wilbur a signed Bill of Sale.  Wilbur decided to call this beautiful young filly Seņorita Edwina.

Wilbur was one happy dude.  Two or three times each week, he would drive out to the stables to visit Seņorita Edwina.  There, he would lovingly brush and groom her and take her out for robust exercise rides.  Wilbur and Seņorita Edwina were quickly bonding.  They seemed like a perfect match.

Then one day Wilbur received a phone call from the new stable manager saying that  Seņorita Edwina's "owner" was coming by the stable to take possession of  Seņorita Edwina!  What the hell was going on?  Wilbur was the owner!  He had the signed Bill of Sale to prove it.  Something was horribly wrong and Wilbur needed to get to the bottom of it.

Little did anyone know, Pedro Ladron was not the owner of the horse but was acting as an agent for the seller.  The seller wanted $500 and told Ladron that he could have anything over that number.   Now with $600 cash in hand, Ladron took the money and ran, never giving the $500 to the real owner of the horse.

Ladron was a thieving, low life, scum sucking pig.  Wilbur was screwed.  The owner wanted his money or he was going to take back the horse. 

Under Costa Rican law, Wilbur had few options.  He could pay for the horse a second time and then file a criminal report (denuncia) with the local cops or just forget the whole thing and go back to renting.  Wilbur decided to suck it up and pay for the horse a second time.

The point of this story is TRUST BUT VERIFY.  Wilbur had made a few mistakes through this transaction.  He thought with his heart and NOT with his head.  He assumed Ladron was the owner of the horse.  Had Wilbur been more diligent in the buying process, he might not be out all that money.  Live and learn, I guess. 

We all know that hind sight is 20/20 but in light of what happened to Wilbur, it would behoove all of us to be more diligent when conducting business in Costa Rica. 

Whether you are buying a horse or anything of value, here are a few tips that will keep you out of trouble:

  • Make sure you know who the owner is.

  • Negotiate directly with the owner, not a third party.

  • Pay the owner directly in cash or electronic transfer

  • Make sure you receive a signed Bill of Sale from the owner and not a third party agent

Wilbur is a hell of a lot smarter now and (in this writer's opinion) won't make this same mistake again.  In the end, it really does not matter whether or not you are buying a horse, a guitar or a valuable painting, the rules are all the same.  Assume the other person is out to screw you.  Do your research, get references and then you will be much better prepared.



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