Last Updated: 4:04 p.m.
Palm Coast City Council member Victor Barbosa may be a fugitive from justice in Costa Rica, where he has been “considered armed and dangerous on the charge of Kidnapping,” according to Flagler County Sheriff Chief Dan Engert, who has requested that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigate the matter. The evidence the Sheriff’s Office uncovered may potentially lead to Barbosa being removed from office by the governor.
Addressing FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen on July 6, Engert, as the chief court and detention services division chief that includes the sheriff’s fugitive unit, wrote the commissioner “to request an Executive Investigation of Palm Coast Councilman Victor Barbosa aka Victor Manuel Barbosa Muller.” The Flagler County Sheriff’s Office, Engert wrote, “believes he is a fugitive from Costa Rica in violation of” Florida law.
Barbosa, 41, was elected to the Palm Coast City Council last year, has allied himself with the mayoral campaign of Alan Lowe in the July 27 special election in Palm Coast, and is running for a County Commission seat in the 2022 election.
He has been under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice since May 6, according to Engert’s letter.
The Sheriff’s Office detected Barbosa’s legal issues in Costa Rica following his vehicle crash on Forest Grove and Old Kings Road on March 6. The crash itself was not serious. But “as part of the normal investigative process,” Engert wrote, Barbosa’s information was checked through the usual law enforcement databases. On March 11, the Sheriff’s Office received a “delayed hit” from one of the databases “indicating Mr. Barbosa was a fugitive from a foreign country and considered armed and dangerous on the charge of Kidnapping and to contact the U.S. Department of Justice, which our Agency did.”
Engert’s letter to the FDLE commissioner is heavily redacted in part, protecting communications about interagency data. But The letter points to the sheriff’s investigation pursuing verification of Barbosa wanted in Costa Rica as the same Barbosa in Palm Coast.
“Using investigative techniques, we believe Mr. Barbosa is the fugitive from Costa Rica. Costa Rican authorities have apparent charges in multiple jurisdictions within Costa Rica to include extortion.”
Asked about the Costa Rica allegations, Barbosa responded in a text: “it’s the first time i am hearing of this I know nothing about this is part of the Mayor’s campaign to smear my name. I have been dealing all week with crazy allegations. Why is there so much money being thrown in to a City election that’s the story you should be after.” He did not respond to questions about his passport number or whether he was in Costa Rica in 2018, but did tell the Observer that he had lived there previously.
A document appended to the Engert letter is a list of charges from Costa Rican authorities dating back to June 18, July 2, and Oct. 26, 2018, charging “Victor Manuel Barboza Muller” with aggravated robbery, extortion, and assault with a weapon. The information the Sheriff’s Office keyed into was the nine-digit identification number on the individual listed: it’s an American passport number that authorities linked back to Barbosa.
Barbosa has tended to keep a very active Facebook page, with multiple entries each day. The page visible to the public has one entry in 2012, then a gap of six years until September 10, 2018, when posts began about Barbosa’s Man Cave, the barber shop, being under construction.
Charges in another country do not automatically mean that an individual facing them, but living in this country, may be arrested for them, or even extradited. It depends on the bilateral agreements between the particular countries. The United States and Costa Rica signed a mutual extradition treaty in 1982.
But in cases such as the one described by Engert, the sheriff’s authority is limited. The Department of Justice at this time has not given the Sheriff’s Office authority “to make a physical arrest of Mr. Barbosa and hold him as a fugitive,” Engert wrote, but, he wrote the commissioner, the Sheriff’s Office believes the evidence it gathered and pending charges is a violation of Florida law.
“We are requesting an investigation by FDLE’s Office of Executive Investigations so the Governor’s Office may take appropriate action, if necessary,” Engert wrote.
Barbosa’s short tenure on the council has been a brawl of turbulence as he’s clashed on and off the council with fellow-council members, with the administration, and with residents he has publicly shamed on Facebook, accused the former city manager (with no evidence) of corruption, and claimed to be cleaning up the “swamp” as a voice of the people. After his vehicle crash in march, he was dismayed to see pictures of the incident reported on FlaglerLive, and, according to the then-city manager and fire chief, attempted to have the fire police captain fired, believing–falsely–that the captain had disseminated the pictures of the crash (the pictures were taken by the sheriff’s office as part of its routine investigation). The details of that crash, as it turns out, may prove to be the least of Barbosa’s problems.
Barbosa ran last fall alongside Ed Danko, who was also elected to the Palm Coast City Council, and Alan Lowe, who was not. Barbosa has been supporting Lowe’s bid for mayor in the special election on July 27, and Danko, who is behind Lowe’s bid, has said “I need Alan Lowe” on the council, presumably to give him the three-cote majority, with Barbosa, to control the council.
Asked today whether he intended to keep Barbosa as a campaign ally, Lowe wrote in an email: “At no time has Mr. Barbosa been a part of my campaign organization. I am truly shocked and sadden to have just read about these allegations. I have never had a conversation with Mr. Barbosa about his time in Costa Rica.”
The claim that Barbosa has at no time been part of Lowe’s campaign organization contradicts the evidence. The two have been planting Lowe campaign signs together around town (“Thank you Victor Manuel Barbosa for your great support in putting these signs up!” Lowe acknowledged on May 26 on Facebook), with Barbosa using his Man Cave truck–the truck that led back to his alleged charges in Costa Rica–to ferry Lowe’s wooden campaign signs, as evidenced in this video obtained by FlaglerLive: