Things That Matter

Costa Rican Officials Claim That A Missing Florida Man Wandered Into A River But His Family Doesn’t Believe It

Sixty-two-year-old retired accountant, Charles Hughes of Tampa, Florida has been missing since August 3rd.  The avid traveler had just visited Costa Rica last month. While he was there, he met a man and the two hit it off. Hughes quickly made plans to return to Costa Rica and meet up with his new companion. 

Hughes was staying at Cabinas Jiménez in Puerto Jiménez off Gulfo Dulce and all seemed well until Charlie no longer had steady communication, no more calls or text, no more social media post. Immediately his sister Nancy began to panic. She and their siblings began to reach out to all local law enforcement in the area where her brother was last seen.

Credit: Cabinas Jímenez / Facebook

It has now been nearly a month and Charlie Hughes never made his return flight home. The family is fighting to get more answers. A week ago, local officials made a discovery, Hughes rental car was found at the bottom of Nuevo Rio River in Puerto Jiménez.

According to Hughes sister, Nancy Steffens, officials have told her that her brother most likely “wandered off” into the river.

Credit: Charlie Hughes / Facebook

Hughes’s family has said that they do not believe the story the authorities are giving them. Not only was their brother an experienced traveler but they are a military family who relocated often, therefore Charlie was able to adapt to new spaces quickly. Plus, this wasn’t his first trip to Costa Rica, he was actually returning to the same area he had previously visited. 

The family stated that they are not giving up hope. They are going to fight until they get the truth.

As for the man that was Charlie’s new friend – who is also the last person known to have seen Charlie – Nancy says local authorities told the family they questioned the man and have released him.

Hughes and his companion (who hasn’t been named) hasn’t been seen since. 

Credit: TexasEquuSearch – TEXQ / Facebook

A family that knows all too well what the Hughes is going through, is Carla Stefaniak’s family. The Venezuelan-American was an Insurance Agent and also an experienced traveler, also from Florida (Miami.) Stefaniak had booked a trip to Costa Rica to celebrate her 36th birthday.

This new mysterious death in Costa Rica is troubling.

Credit: carla_margarita / Instagram

Ready to ring in around trip around the Sun, she checked into her Airnbn and enjoyed a few days with her sister-in-law who then returned home on that Tuesday and Stefaniak was supposed to return home the following day on Wednesday, but just like Hughes she never boarded her return flight. 

In Carla’s last text to her family, sent November 27, 2018, she told them it was raining pretty hard and the lights kept going in and out at the place she was staying at, her last words read “this place seems pretty sketch.”

By December 3, 2018, the family was working round the clock on a full-scale search, sharing her story with every and any media outlet, in hopes to bring their daughter home safely.

The disappearance of Stefaniak made national headlines in the U.S. as the family searched for their loved one.

Credit: carla_margarita / Instagram

Sadly, a couple of days later her body was found, buried in a shallow grave behind the Airbnb she was staying at. Her family confirmed that is was her. The security guard employed at the gated villa is now being tried for her murder. 

Airbnb has since removed the property from their listings.

Just months before the Carla Stefaniak case, there were three cases of missing tourist whose bodies were later recovered. 

Costa Rica has been known for its beautiful beaches and relatively low crime has always been considered one of the safest tourist destinations. According to the stats at InSight Crime, even though Costa Rica hit a record high in 2017 for homicides, their numbers are still significantly lower than the numbers for the No. 1 Latin American destination place for tourist, Mexico.

InSight Crime lists different reasons for a rise in crime, but there does seem to by a cycle that is followed starting with imperialism that carries over decades that then creates unstable governments and depreciates the value of the currency in a country. When we see the currency drop that creates the perfect storm for criminal organizations to rise-up and recruits. 

We have seen this happen in Mexico and we are currently seeing this happen in Central America. Make no mistake, this doesn’t happen out of anywhere, there is decades build-up to how this rise in crime happens. 

For many Latinos in the United States, especially those on the border, traveling between two countries is nothing new. We grew up already hearing little life lessons from our parents like “esconde el dinero” “no hables ingles” always be aware of your surroundings and never give too much information.

However, for the millennial Latino generation we are traveling solo more often, we are creating content on social media, and we are living in a time of instant access. We now have AirBNB and Uber, so many other apps that make these common-sense tips sometimes get lost in our day-to-day lives.

As with any trip planning to any country, it is always good to do your research and there are plenty of websites, blogs, etc., that can offer safety trips and travel alerts, to keep yourself informed.

Always check the State Department website for travel advisories when planning international travel.

Credit: U.S. State Department

Don’t cancel your plans to visit Costa Rica, just yet. As of a few days ago, the website World Population Review listed their top safest countries to visit in Latin America, Costa Rica ranks number three.

READ: Costa Rica Is Warning Everyone To Stop Drinking Alcohol As 19 People Have Died Due To Tainted Alcohol

Florida Police Are Investigating How A Fully Loaded Assault Rifle Ended Up In A Baby Einstein’s Box Bought At A Goodwill

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Florida Police Are Investigating How A Fully Loaded Assault Rifle Ended Up In A Baby Einstein’s Box Bought At A Goodwill

Veronica Alvarez-Rodriguez / Facebook

A Florida military couple was shocked when they saw their friends open their baby shower gift, purchased at Goodwill, only to find a semi-automatic rifle neatly stored in the seemingly unopened Baby Einstein bouncer. Veronica Alvarez-Rodriguez said that she and her husband were on their way to a baby shower when they stopped at the Valparaiso Goodwill and found what they thought was the perfect gift. When the father-to-be, Jonathan Rosas, opened the box, he was delighted, and shouted: “You guys got me a gun!” Alvarez-Rodriguez told the Northwest Florida Daily News.

The Rosas’ baby shower for baby Johnathan ended with a visit from Crestview Police Officers, who initially said they could keep the gun.

At first, the parents-to-be thought the Alvarez-Rodriguez family was pranking them.

CREDIT: VERONICA ALVAREZ-RODRIGUEZ / FACEBOOK

Jonathan Rosas is a military man himself, so he initially thought their friends actually gifted him an assault rifle, but was making a joke by packaging it inside a Baby Einstein toy box. “The funniest part is they opened gifts in front of everyone and they thought we were pranking them🤣🤣Nope, lol that was not supposed to be in there but the dad to be got a better gift than a bouncer,” Alvarez-Rodriguez later commented on Facebook. Guests laughed away while the Alvarez-Rodriguez family was dumbfounded. The box looked like it had never been opened, and they thought they had just scored a brand new brand-name baby jumper for just $9.99 at Goodwill. As it turns out, there was nothing baby-friendly about the gift, though they did get a very good deal on a gun. 

“💰When you go to the Goodwill for a baby shower gift thinking you got a good deal on a bouncer ($10) not even opened and you end up opening a 🔫MOSSBERG 715T Semi-Auto Rifle 😱😱,” Veronica Alvarez-Rodriguez posted on Facebook. The Crestview Police were called to the house, where they searched for the serial number of the gun, and found that it was “clean.” “Serial number was clean & Crestview Police said do what you want with it🏆,” Alvarez-Rodriguez posted. “The gun now belongs to Baby Jonathan who is due to enter this world any day now 😂 #wegiftedhimhisfirstgun” 

The responding officer suspected no foul-play and thinks that someone’s wife just tricked her husband into donating the gun.

CREDIT: VERONICA ALVAREZ-RODRIGUEZ / FACEBOOK

The group immediately called the police once they realized that an assault rifle was hidden in a baby toy box and donated to Goodwill. The officers arrived at the baby shower and checked the couple’s identifications to make sure they weren’t convicted felons, and then began wondering out loud how on earth an assault rifle arrived inside a baby toy box. Alvarez-Rodriguez later commented on her Facebook post that the assigning officer guessed that “someone’s wife probably got mad at the husband and took his gun and dropped it off.” The officer initially allowed the family to keep the gun, but the next day, police asked Jonathan Rosas to turn over the gun while they run it through a database with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. Crestview PD confirmed that the weapon was not stolen, but are holding the gun for 90 days while they come to understand the purchase history. That means that we may find out how the gun landed at a Goodwill. 

Crestview and Valparaiso Police Departments are working a theory that the rifle may have been donated at a collection point anywhere between Tallahassee and Pensacola before it arrived at the Valparaiso Goodwill. The rifle was fully loaded inside the box. Police are now saying they believe someone donated the baby-bouncer to Goodwill without knowing its contents, according to Military Times.

The Rosas are expected to receive the gun after the 90-day hold period.

CREDIT: AMBER ROSAS / FACEBOOK

In case you’re wondering, someone asked Alvarez-Rodriguez how she didn’t notice the weight difference between a baby bouncer and an assault rifle. “I mean metal poles on the bouncer & metal gun and some ammo ??” she answered, adding that the box says it should weight 25 pounds, but agrees that it’s “definitely a mysteriously crazy find.” Alvarez-Rodriguez’s Facebook friends didn’t believe that the rifle could fit inside the box, so she later posted a video of the rifle inside the box as further evidence to an unimaginably wild story to believe.

By the time the gun is returned to them, their baby will likely be two to three months old. Would you have an assault rifle in the same house as your baby?

READ: California Man Arrested With Drugs And Guns While Keeping A Person Hostage And Suspected Of Murder

A Florida Politician Verbally Assaulted A Group Of Latinos But They Recorded The Incident

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A Florida Politician Verbally Assaulted A Group Of Latinos But They Recorded The Incident

@TrendsKey / Twitter

Late last month, a teenage Puerto Rican tennis player was accosted by local politician Martin Hyde at a tennis club in Sarasota, Florida. The tennis player captured the incident on video, which was later posted to social media by Puerto Rican attorney Alvin Couto de Jesus, who had originally gotten the video from the athlete’s uncle, Javier Irizarry.

In the video, Hyde is seated, speaking tersely with the athlete and his peers, before following them as they begin to leave the premises.

According to Irizarry, his 15-year-old nephew was invited to play in the Casely International Tennis Championship, which was hosted last week by Bath & Racquet Club at the Celsius Tennis Academy in Sarasota, Florida. The athlete was practicing for the tournament when, allegedly, Hyde approached him and his friends in an aggressive manner, instructing them to “cut grass” and “get out.” The video’s audio begins with Hyde telling one of the players to “keep [your] mouth shut.” The tennis player and his peers rebuke Hyde’s confrontation, calling him out for making racist comments and demanding that they leave.

“You’re telling me to cut grass because I’m Hispanic,” says one of the players. “That’s racism, man. How can you say something like that?”

The players continue to draw attention to Hyde’s racist comments before turning to leave the scene. Hyde gets up from his seat and follows them, crying, “Out! Out!” all the while.

Before leaving the Tennis Academy, the teens report the incident to Academy staff. Meanwhile, Hyde interrupts and tries to invalidate their story, accusing them of being disruptive and intoxicated.

“I don’t know what drugs they’re on,” he says, insisting that he is a “member of the club” and that he wants the teenagers to leave. The athletes repeat his comment about “cutting grass,” and while some of Hyde’s speech is muffled, his response to the teen is clear as day: “Yes,” he says. “So what?” When a staff member engages in an attempt to solve the conflict, Hyde encourages her to “throw them out,” eventually telling the teens to “shut up” before abruptly walking away.

Latino Rebels reported the story and shared the video on Friday. It has since circulated widely on social media, and as a result, Sarasota’s Bath & Racquet Club has banned Hyde from its premises.

“We have kids from all over the world, Central America, Latin America, who play here and compete to get scholarships for college,” Cary Cohenour, the director of Celsius Tennis Academy, which leases courts to the club, told NBC News. “The whole incident was out of control and though Celsius wasn’t involved, we want people to know that we denounce racism here.”

An active candidate for the District 2 Sarasota City Commission, Hyde planned to quit the race after news of the incident spread. However, he’s since announced that he may continue running. And in spite of the video evidence, Hyde adamantly denies making racist comments to the Puerto Rican tennis players, though he does admit that he acted inappropriately.

“I was rude and I regret that. It was a long day and my kids were being disturbed while they were having their lesson, because the boys were being loud,” Hyde said. “But I simply didn’t say those things, and that’s why they’re not in the video.”

Hyde also denies allegations—made by Twitter user @sergiodilan101, who Latino Rebels have identified as Irizarry’s nephew—that Hyde offered him $50,000 in exchange for the video.

In this Twitter thread, @sergiodilan101 recounts the story in great detail, expressing that before this incident, he and his compañero had never felt so “upset, frustrated, uncomfortable, and sad.” He encourages all Latinos to stand together and support each other in situations like this, and he has received an abundant outpouring of support and affirmation, both from people online, political figures, and family.

“We had a long talk about reality and I explained to him that this guy represents a really small minority and that his behavior wasn’t normal,” Irizarry told NBC News. “I hope by sharing the video we can prevent something like this from happening again.”

Additionally,  Peter Vivaldi, a former Republican candidate for the Florida state Senate—who is also of Puerto Rican descent—responded to the video by saying that “if you’re a public figure . . . you run for everybody, you represent everybody.”

He added, “This is not what we want to represent any party and less do we want that in the state of Florida, where we’re talking about Puerto Ricans that are American citizens. We need to make sure if you’re Republican or Democrat, if you’re saying things that are not appropriate, we need to call you out.”