Washington state is heading south in its quest to recover the largest ethics fine in state history.
As reported this spring, a former Evergreen State College professor has evaded efforts to collect the $120,000 fine against him.
But the state hasn't given up just because Jorge Gilbert has moved to South America.
Jorge Gilbert was hit with the six-figure fine last year. That was two years after auditors found Gilbert had repeatedly ripped off students on study abroad trips to his native Chile.
For more than a decade, he steered students' money to his own family members. If the wheels of justice had turned faster, the state could have seized Gilbert's condo in Olympia.
This summer, the state attorney general's office put out word it was looking for a collection agency to reel in its money–all the way from Chile. Only one agency put in a bid for the work. So, on Friday, the state re-advertised the job.
But is it even possible for Washington to recover money on another continent, where our laws don't apply?
Manfredi: "My name? Okay, I am Raoul Horacio Manfredi. I am a general manager, TransWorld Services. It is a collection company in Chile."
Manfredi says his agency routinely collects debts in Chile owed to creditors in other countries. Turns out, in a global economy, you can't just flee your debts by moving to another hemisphere.
Manfredi : "Here in Chile, it's possible, not easy, but it's possible to collect money from the other country to Chile. But first of all, you need to found the guy."
Jorge Gilbert has been working for Universidad ARCIS in Santiago. He edits a sociology journal there. He's also been producing videos for the university's sociology department.
Gilbert did not reply to emails sent to his university email address.
Debt collector Horacio Manfredi says Washington can go to a Chilean court to recover the $120,000. If the Chilean court issued a court order against him, Gilbert's credit rating would be toast if he didn't pay.
Manfredi: "Here in Chile, when you have problems with the law, with the don't pay the bills, the banks close the door immediately."
And Gilbert's Chilean assets would also be at risk.
Manfredi: "If the debtor doesn't pay, the court go to the assets and sell the assets, take the money this way."
Jorge Gilbert's Chilean assets include an apartment he owns in a leafy, upper-middle-class neighborhood of Santiago. The apartment's been assessed at 52 million Chilean pesos. That's about $110,000, or nearly the full amount of his ethics fine.
Copyright 2012 Northwest Public Radio