142. Telegram 2258 From the Embassy in Costa Rica to the Department of State1

2258. Subject: Reported Arrest of AmCit Concerned with Vesco Case.

1. Summary: Presumed American citizen James Wilkins is being held in prison here. He claims to be an employee of U.S. Attorney Elliot Sagor. Consul has not yet been able to see him. End summary.

2. Consul received two notes May 6 from presumed AmCit James Wilkins which assert he has been held in San Jose prison for seven days. He claims that he was sent to San Jose by Assistant U.S. Attorney Elliot Sagor to gather information on Robert Vesco, and says that he is afraid that if he does not sign a false confession he will be killed. He requests [Page 419] Embassy to notify Mr. Sagor and also his own father in Tampa, Florida at [Personal information omitted].

3. These messages were apparently smuggled out of the prison at Wilkins’s request.

4. Consul proceeded immediately to call on senior officials of Ministry of Public Security and to visit the prison, but he was not allowed to see Wilkins. Officials were clearly annoyed that consul had learned of case and tried to discourage him from pursuing it. They said that investigation is still proceeding, that Wilkins may not even be an American citizen, and that he may be deported by this weekend. They suggested that case is being held closely at highest levels of GOCR.

5. Ambassador received last week by pouch a “personal and confidential” letter dated April 21 from Elliot Sagor which stated that “several months ago an American citizen was offered a job by the people in whom we are interested. We have advanced this person money to return to Costa Rica. If he gets the job, he will be reporting back to us concerning foreign travel. He will be on his own down there, and will not require any support from the Embassy.”

6. It seems probable that Wilkins is the individual alluded to by Sagor. The questionable wisdom of engaging him in the first place, and the possible adverse implications for the whole course of our Vesco case here, will have to be considered at an early date. The immediate questions, however, are the handling of this protection case and the USG response in the face of possible renewed allegations (from the GOCR and/or the press) that there has been attempted harassment of Vesco if not improper intervention in Costa Rican internal affairs by a U.S. Agency.

7. If approached by such a charge or query, the Embassy plans to take the position that it knows nothing about Wilkins’s alleged association with any U.S. Agency. We will attempt to treat this as a straight consular protection case. This will entail new efforts by consul on Friday May 7 to see Wilkins.

8. Would appreciate immediate confirmation that Wilkins is U.S. citizen and any other guidance Department may wish to provide. Department may wish to contact Wilkins’s father as he requested.

  1. Summary: The Embassy reported the arrest by Costa Rican authorities of James Wilkins, who claimed to have been hired to gather information on Vesco by the U.S. Attorney in charge of the case against him.

    Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D76015–0911. Secret; Niact; Immediate; Exdis; Stadis. All brackets are in the original except those indicating text omitted by the editors. In telegram 2301 from San José, May 8, the Embassy reported that it had secretly gained access to portions of Wilkins’s alleged statement, which apparently indicated that Wilkins had come to Costa Rica to kidnap or murder Vesco. (Ibid., D760179–0217) In telegram 2320 from San José, May 10, the Embassy reported that during a meeting with the Costa Rican Minister of Public Security, a consul expressed concern the Embassy had not been informed of Wilkins’s arrest. (Ibid., D760180–0438) In telegram 2342 from San José, May 11, the Embassy reported that Wilkins stated to a consul that he had traveled to Costa Rica at the behest of U.S. prosecutors to gather information on Vesco, but that his statement to the Costa Rican authorities was false and had been signed under threat of death or a long prison term. (Ibid., D760182–0243)