Bill Ulmer’s Passport Problems and His Miraculous Journey

I was in the San Jose, Costa Rica airport last week accompanying a friend who took someone to catch a flight. Being in that building gave me the heebie-jeebies, which I don’t get very often. Thinking about Bill Ulmer standing in that line, going through that security check point, knowing the truth about Barbara Struncova, having gotten away with whatever he did, having lied to everyone in the presence of whom he opened his mouth, and running away. It gives me the bad kind of shivers.

On Wednesday, July 6, Bill is scheduled to receive his sentence for Identity Theft and Possession of an Identity Document with Intent to Defraud. The stolen/fraudulent identity document in question is a passport belonging to his brother Wayne Ulmer, Jr.

Today, let’s talk about passports. Bill had trouble with his—trouble, as in he didn’t have one. It’s lucky he liked to grumble about it while having a few drinks with his and Barbara’s friends. If he hadn’t, no one would have known to contact the US authorities when Barbara Struncova disappeared, her credit card charged several thousand dollars at the surf shop where Bill worked, and he turned up at his parents’ house in North Carolina the next day. In that order. Without having mentioned to anyone that he was leaving.


So what happened to Bill Ulmer’s passport? I gather that he’s done some creative story-telling to folks who ask. These are the main points of the story I’ve been able to pull it together: Bill arrived in Costa Rica with his own passport in the spring of 2008, intending to start a tour company. At some time near the end of the year, he was deported back to the USA. My understanding is that he was deported for “working” illegally. I’ve got to hand it to him—that is one crappy stroke of bad luck. Lots of foreigners work illegally in Costa Rica because there is no way to earn a dollar legally unless you are Costa Rican, have a resident visa, or obtain some type of practically-unheard-of work permit. It is my understanding that the authorities observed Bill receiving money from tourists for a surf trip, mistook it for a drug deal, stepped in, and discovered he was breaking a different law. I don’t know if that’s how it happened, but I do know that if the Costa Rican immigration officials catch you working illegally, you get deported. Period.

(O THE IRONIES of being deported for working illegally, only to walk away Scott free from a trail of blood that the authorities saw with their own eyes…)

Being deported does not mean you lose your passport. The country that deported you might not want you back right away, but you’re still allowed to go other places. But Bill wasn’t. Why? Because there are amounts of child support that a person can owe which disqualify him from being eligible to leave the country. And Bill owed that much. I don’t know exactly how much he owed at that time, but it was well over the magic number. That’s all I’m going to say about child support because I don’t want to discuss Bill’s children/family. None of this is their fault, and yet they can never disconnect from it.

The next thing we know is that Bill Ulmer re-entered Costa Rica in March 2009 as Wayne Ulmer. Whether Bill stole Wayne’s passport, or Bill “stole” Wayne’s passport, I cannot know. I’ve heard that during the 3 months between the time he was deported and the time he returned, Bill lived with Wayne. I have two sisters, both of whom own passports, both of whom I’ve lived with at one time or another. If I wanted to steal either of their passports, I wouldn’t have the foggiest notion of where to look. Maybe Bill spent three months stealthily searching? Maybe he convinced Wayne to show or lend it to him? I don’t know. If the story happened any other way, we have two felons instead of one.

Wayne immediately noticed that his passport was stolen. Or he immediately “noticed” that it was “stolen.” And what do you do if your passport is stolen? You report it to the authorities. If you give your passport to someone and plan to say it was stolen, what do you do? You report it to the authorities! You have to, or you could be charged with a felony as well. Wayne also phoned some friends, which is how we can be sure that he discovered it missing right away. My understanding is that Wayne reported Bill to the authorities for having stolen his passport right away. I can’t say anything for sure, but that is a story that came to me. The more I think on it, the less sense it makes.

Bill, then, could never go back to the United States. I remember that. I remember him never, ever wanting to go back, rolling his eyes and grumbling about how he had some trouble there. He needed fly under the radar in Costa Rica, not get in trouble with the cops, not get caught by immigration, not get stopped for speeding, stay out of bar fights.


What I want to know, what I cannot fathom, and what leaves even my imagination standing speechless is this question: HOW IN THE DEVIL DO YOU FLY FROM COSTA RICA TO THE USA ON A PASSPORT THAT HAS BEEN REPORTED AS STOLEN AND NOT GET NAILED BY TSA?


That is nothing short of a miracle.

Was the passport really reported stolen? Or was it only reported after Bill came back?

Am I missing something? They practically make you walk through security checkpoints in your underwear, and Bill got both OUT of Costa Rica and INTO the USA on a passport that was reported as STOLEN? My God, my head is exploding. I hope there is a piece of this puzzle that is still missing, because BOY does it ever not fit together well.


On Wednesday, the judge will rule on how much more time Bill needs to spend in jail for traveling with Wayne’s passport. There are no charges regarding the disappearance of Barbara Struncova, but the judge is well aware of the close connection to a missing person case in Costa Rica. I am sure she is right over our shoulders, closely watching.

B and B hand over his mouth

2 thoughts on “Bill Ulmer’s Passport Problems and His Miraculous Journey

  1. Hello Diana,

    I like the way you are always digging deeper than newspapers journalists.

    What I cannot understand is why the OIJ (Organismo de investigación judicial), the Costa Rican F.B.I, have not stepped in, and asked the USA authorities to interrogate him, since they never did it while investigating Struncova’s disappearing. Costa Rica deals very poorly with missing persons in its territorry (Kim Paris, another very strange case of missing person, for example).

    • Thank you. I agree that Costa Rica deals very poorly with missing persons–and with crime in general, really. The ironic thing is that NO ONE has any doubt about what happened. Not the FBI, not the OIJ. But you’re right, if the OIJ doesn’t uncross its arms and do something, only the miraculous discovery of a body will produce any actual justice.

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