Updated 07:10 AM EDT, Wed, Jun 23, 2021

Costa Rican Gang Members Charged for Organ Trafficking

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Five suspected members of a Costa Rican organ trafficking ring are set to face court trial for illegally selling kidneys in Israel, the state Prosecutors Office told the press on Monday.

According to Tico Times, the suspects include four doctors from the public Calderón Guardia Hospital and a Greek businessman who owns a pizzeria close by. They have been charged with "human trafficking for the purpose of organ extraction."

The illegal activity reportedly took place between 2009 and 2013 where the group used the public hospital, as well as Clínica Biblica, a private clinic also located in San José, to conduct the extraction of the organs.

Meanwhile, the pizzeria owned by one of the suspects was used as a recruitment area where the "donors" spoke with the pizzeria owner.

The "donors" were offered at least $20,000 for each kidney -- a very low price compared to the initially reported price of the organs, pegged at over $100,000.

Findings presented by the Prosecutor's Office on Organized Crime revealed that the group had already transplanted at least 14 kidneys to recipients who were mostly Israelis.

According to Inside Costa Rica, their leader, who was known by the surname Mora Palma, was arrested on June 18, 2013.

The outlet further noted that if indicted, Mora Palma is faced with 10 years in prison for each of the 14 counts of illegal organ harvesting cases, resulting in a total of 140 years of incarceration.

Aside from that, he is also charged with 16 counts of embezzlement which might increase his total number of jail time further.

The four were charged in 2013 and were initially scheduled to face court in December 2015, another report from Inside Costa Rica revealed.

However, it was postponed after two defense lawyers died in two separate incidents: the first killed while riding a taxi and the other, Roy Ching Leitón, died after being gunned down.

Prior to that, the trial was originally set for July 2015 but was postponed to November for reasons that were not revealed by the court.

Now, the new schedule of the hearing is expected to occur soon, though the exact date has yet to be announced.

Organ selling in Costa Rica is an unlawful act and is punishable by law because it presents a threat to human life, especially if done under inappropriate circumstances.

"We have information that at least one person died after being operated on in Israel," Attorney General Jorge Chavarria told Inside Costa Rica back in July.

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