ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – A security guard at a Costa Rica Airbnb rental villa was arrested in the death of a Florida woman who was remembered by friends as an avid world traveler and “happy soul,” authorities said Wednesday.
Carla Stefaniak of Hallandale Beach, Florida, went to the Central American country to celebrate her 36th birthday but never boarded her Nov. 28 return flight after messaging friends that it was “pretty sketchy” at her resort. Officials later found a partially buried body in woods nearby and identified it using fingerprints, the country's Judicial Investigation Department said. Stefaniak's family members also traveled to there to help with identification.
Security guard Bismark Espinosa Martinez, 32, was arrested in the slaying after he contradicted himself in statements to police, the department said Wednesday.
Coordinated raids net 84 suspects
In an investigation that underscored an Italian crime syndicate's role as a leading player in international cocaine trafficking, police in four countries arrested at least 84 suspected mobsters Wednesday in a series of carefully coordinated raids. Those detained allegedly work for the Italian 'Ndrangheta criminal network that traffics in cocaine on a global scale.
European officials announced the arrests at the Dutch headquarters of Eurojust, the European Union prosecutors agency set up to bolster the fight against cross-border crime in the 28-nation bloc. Eurojust and EU police agency Europol coordinated the raids. As well as arresting dozens of suspected mobsters in Italy, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, police seized drugs and around 2 million euros.
It was the second significant mob takedown in as many days. On Tuesday, Italian authorities said they had dismantled the rebuilt upper echelons of the Mafia in the Sicilian capital of Palermo by arresting 46 people.
Putin warns of banned missiles
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday warned the United States that if it walks out of a key arms treaty and starts developing the type of missiles banned by it, Russia will do the same.
Putin's remarks to Russian news agencies on Wednesday came a day after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced at a NATO meeting that Washington will suspend its obligations under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in 60 days, citing Russian “cheating.”
The U.S. has shared intelligence evidence with its NATO allies that it says shows that Russia's new SSC-8 ground-fired cruise missile could give Moscow the ability to launch a nuclear strike in Europe with little or no notice.
Russia reaffirms Maduro support
Russian President Vladimir Putin offered firm support Wednesday for Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro, who is visiting Moscow to shore up political and economic assistance even as his country has been struggling to pay billions of dollars owed to Russia.
Maduro has become increasingly isolated under growing sanctions led by the U.S. and the European Union which accuse him of undermining democratic institutions, while overseeing an economic and political crisis worse than the Great Depression.
At the start of their talks, Putin told Maduro that Moscow is aware that the “situation in Venezuela remains dire.” As food and medicine become increasingly scarce, masses of Venezuelans are fleeing, stretching resources in neighboring Colombia and Brazil. Runaway inflation this year could top 1 million percent, the International Monetary Fund predicts.