Friday, December 12, 2014

Three Colombian Nationals Sentenced to Prison for the Kidnapping and Murder of DEA Agent Terry Watson

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

Three Colombian nationals were sentenced to decades in prison today in the Eastern District of Virginia for their roles 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 Bill A. Miller, Director, U.S. State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service 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.”

“Terry Watson was a courageous and accomplished DEA Special Agent who we will forever honor and remember for his dedicated career and sacrifice,” said DEA Administrator Leonhart.  “DEA is grateful that those who carried out this reprehensible and senseless act are now facing U.S. justice.  We will honor his life and career by continuing our global crusade with our domestic and international partners to defeat violent drug trafficking networks.”

Héctor Leonardo López, 34, Julio Estiven Gracia Ramírez, 32, and Andrés Álvaro Oviedo García, 22, previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to kidnap and aiding and abetting the murder of an internationally protected person.  Today, U.S. District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee of the Eastern District of Virginia sentenced López to 25 years, Gracia Ramírez to 27 years, and Oviedo García to 20 years.
In addition, Wilson Daniel Peralta-Bocachica, 31, pleaded guilty today to obstruction of justice and Edwin Gerardo Figueroa Sepúlveda, 39, pleaded guilty on Dec. 9, 2014, to conspiracy to kidnap and aiding and abetting the murder of an internationally protected person.  Sentencing hearings for Peralta-Bocachica and Figueroa Sepúlveda are scheduled for Feb. 18, 2015.

In the statements of facts filed with their plea agreements, López, Gracia Ramírez, Oviedo García, and Figueroa Sepúlveda admitted that they conspired to conduct “paseo milionarios” or “millionaire’s rides” in which victims were lured into taxi cabs, kidnapped and then robbed. 

They admitted that on the evening of June 20, 2013, they were part of a robbery crew that targeted Special Agent Watson.  Gracia Ramírez picked up Special Agent Watson in his taxi, while López drove a second taxi carrying the assailants.  Figueroa Sepúlveda entered the taxi carrying Special Agent Watson and shocked him with a stun gun while another defendant stabbed him.  Special Agent Watson was able to escape from the taxi, but he later collapsed and died from his injuries. 

Oviedo García was part of the robbery crew, but shortly before Special Agent Watson was targeted, a third taxi encountered mechanical issues and Oviedo García stayed with the disabled taxi.  Peralta-Bocachica admitted that in the days following the kidnapping and murder, he washed the taxi in which Special Agent Watson was stabbed, removing blood from the back seat then discarding the cleaning rags, before turning the taxi over to the Colombian National Police. 

Two other defendants, Omar Fabián Valdes Gualtero, 27, and Édgar Javier Bello Murillo, 27, are charged with second degree murder, kidnapping and conspiracy to kidnap in connection with their alleged involvement in the murder.  Trial is set for Jan. 12, 2015.  The charges in the indictment against these defendants are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

This case was investigated by the FBI, DEA and the Diplomatic Security Service, 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 of 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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