Friday, September 19, 2014

Second Colombian National Pleads Guilty to Kidnapping and Murder of DEA Agent Terry Watson

The U.S. Justice Department released the below information:

WASHINGTON—A second Colombian man extradited to the Eastern District of Virginia pleaded guilty today for his involvement in the kidnapping and murder of Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agent James Terry Watson in Bogotá, Colombia, on June 20, 2013.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Dana J. Boente of the Eastern District of Virginia, Special Agent in Charge George L. Piro of the FBI’s Miami Field Office, DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart and Director Bill A. Miller of the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) made the announcement.

“Throughout his law enforcement career, Special Agent Watson’s service was both selfless and courageous,” said Attorney General Holder. “With this action, we continue our work to hold accountable those who were responsible for his murder. In the weeks ahead, we expect to take additional steps to bring the perpetrators to justice. And in all that we do, our nation’s Department of Justice will continue to honor Special Agent Watson’s sacrifice, to safeguard the nation he served, and to protect the values and principles he defended all his life.”

“DEA will never forget the sacrifice of Special Agent Terry Watson, nor will we rest until those responsible for his kidnapping and murder are brought to justice for this horrific act,” said DEA Administrator Leonhart. “While this is certainly not the final step, we are pleased that another criminal facilitator in this awful tragedy is answering for his actions in a U.S. courtroom.”

Andrés Álvaro Oviedo García, 22, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee of the Eastern District of Virginia to aiding and abetting the murder of an internationally protected person and conspiracy to kidnap an internationally protected person. Sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 12, 2014.

In a statement of facts filed with the plea agreement, Oviedo García admitted that he and his conspirators agreed to conduct a “paseo milionario” or “millionaire’s ride” in which victims who were perceived as wealthy were lured into taxi cabs, kidnapped and then robbed. Oviedo García admitted that he was part of the group of individuals that targeted Special Agent Watson, but his taxi encountered mechanical issues. Oviedo García remained with the disabled taxi while the other conspirators continued with the group’s plan to conduct the “millionaire’s ride” robberies. Shortly thereafter, Special Agent Watson was targeted and picked up in a taxi outside a restaurant in Bogotá. Soon after, two conspirators entered the taxi carrying Special Agent Watson, and one used a stun gun to shock Special Agent Watson and the other stabbed him. Special Agent Watson was able to escape from the taxi, but he later collapsed and died from his injuries.

Six other defendants were charged in this case for their alleged involvement in the murder of Special Agent Watson. Gerardo Figueroa Sepúlveda, 39; Omar Fabián Valdes Gualtero, 27; Édgar Javier Bello Murillo, 27; and Héctor Leonardo López, 34, are each charged by indictment with second degree murder, kidnapping and conspiracy to kidnap. Wilson Daniel Peralta Bocachica, 31, was charged for his alleged efforts to destroy evidence associated with the murder of Special Agent Watson.

On Sept. 3, 2014, Julio Estiven Gracia Ramírez, 31, pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting the murder of an internationally protected person and conspiracy to kidnap an internationally protected person. Sentencing for Gracia Ramírez is scheduled for Dec. 5, 2014. Trial for the remaining defendants is set for Jan. 12, 2015.

The charges in the indictment against the other defendants are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

This case was investigated by the FBI, DEA and DSS, in close cooperation with Colombian authorities and with assistance from INTERPOL and the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs. The case is being prosecuted by Special Counsel Stacey Luck of the Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael P. Ben’Ary of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia.

The Department of Justice gratefully acknowledges the Colombian Attorney General’s Office, Colombian National Police, Colombian Directorate of Criminal Investigation and Interpol (DIJIN), DIJIN Special Investigative Unit, Bogotá Metropolitan Police, Bogotá Police Intelligence Body (CIPOL) Unit and Colombian Technical Investigation Team for their extraordinary efforts, support and professionalism in responding to this incident.

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