After his arrest by police on Saturday in an area known for drug trafficking and gang activity, Jose Honorio Cuervo Serna told authorities that he had been kidnapped and was held for ransom, according to the newspaper El Sentinel. His story turned out to be made up, and he has been charged with insurance fraud and drug trafficking, according to CNN.

While Cuervo Serna may have wanted to stage a kidnapping, the facts of his story suggest that the 52-year-old probably just fancied himself as the disappearing act king. In May 2015, for example, he took over as a foreman of a drill site in Northern California after his boss, Brendan Gingras, was involved in a fatal accident while working.

Cuervo Serna met his wife, Venessa Larrea, about 10 years ago and decided to visit Costa Rica three years later. In January 2017, he booked a three-week trip to the Central American country. According to reports, while Cuervo Serna was on the trip, his 16-year-old son, Luis Enrique, decided to join him at his apartment in the bay town of Quepos. According to reports, Cuervo Serna told his daughter — also a minor — that he was on a trip to La Agua, a place that locals called La Caraca. Cuervo Serna apparently learned later that the name referred to a notorious bullfighting arena on the southern shore of the country. When Cuervo Serna learned that his son had not returned, he asked his wife to contact authorities. Five days later, police found Cuervo Serna’s ATM and credit card statements showing he used credit cards to make purchases worth $30,000.

Cuervo Serna was determined to make the story make sense, and he did not wait around to report Luis Enrique’s disappearance. While searching for the boy, Cuervo Serna found a hitching post, and a beached boat close to the beach where he previously had been fishing. He then rounded up a few friends, including an ex-con who is currently serving prison time. With the help of his fellow smugglers, Cuervo Serna attempted to smuggle three women from Costa Rica to Panama.

And yet, Cuervo Serna never left the area. Instead, he told a story to authorities about where his son had been in an effort to cover for his failure to report him missing. Cuervo Serna met with authorities in Quepos on Saturday and detailed his plan to embark on a trail to Panama, but was arrested before he was able to escape the jungle with the six women.

Cuervo Serna may find himself in the slammer for decades, but one thing is sure: The "missing boy" con is pretty popular in Costa Rica.


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