Thursday, February 19, 2015

Colombian National Sentenced To 360 Months In Prison For the Kidnapping And Murder of DEA Special Agent James “Terry” Watson

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

Two Colombian nationals were sentenced to prison yesterday in the Eastern District of Virginia for the kidnapping and murder of Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agent James “Terry” Watson in Bogotá, Colombia, on June 20, 2013, and subsequent concealment of those crimes.

Attorney General Eric 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.

“These two defendants bear responsibility for the kidnapping and murder of a courageous federal agent,” said Attorney General Eric Holder. “With this sentencing, they face justice for their involvement in this brutal crime.  Our nation owes a great debt to Special Agent Terry Watson and his loved ones.  We will never rest in our determination to honor his profound sacrifices, to pursue all who would threaten our brave men and women in law enforcement, and to carry on the vital work for which he gave his life.”

“Yesterday’s sentencing is another important step in bringing justice to those responsible for the murder of Special Agent Terry Watson,” said DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart.  “Terry was a respected and dedicated DEA Special Agent and we will not rest until all those involved in this heinous act are sentenced.  Our thoughts and prayers continue to go out to the Watson family as this case moves towards a final resolution.”   

Edwin Gerardo Figueroa Sepúlveda, 39, of Bogotá, previously pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting the murder of an internationally protected person and conspiracy to kidnap an internationally protected person.  Yesterday, U.S. District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee of the Eastern District of Virginia sentenced Figueroa Sepúlveda to 360 months.  Wilson Daniel Peralta-Bocachica, 31, also of Bogotá, previously pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice, and was sentenced to 40 months yesterday.

In the statement of facts filed with his plea agreement, Figueroa Sepúlveda admitted that he conspired to conduct “paseo milionarios” or “millionaire’s rides” in which he and his co-conspirators lured victims into taxi cabs, then kidnapped and robbed them.  He admitted that on the evening of June 20, 2013, he was part of a six-person robbery crew that targeted Special Agent Watson. 

One of the members of the crew picked up Special Agent Watson in his taxi, while another drove a second taxi carrying the assailants.  Figueroa Sepúlveda entered the taxi carrying Special Agent Watson and shocked him with a stun gun several times while another defendant stabbed him.
Special Agent Watson was able to escape from the taxi, but he later collapsed and died from his injuries.

In a statement of facts filed with his plea agreement, Peralta-Bocachica admitted that in the days following the kidnapping and murder, he washed the taxi in which Special Agent Watson was stabbed, removing the victim’s blood from the back seat then discarding the cleaning rags, before turning the taxi over to the Colombian National Police.

A total of six defendants were charged for their involvement in the murder and kidnapping of Special Agent Watson, in addition to Peralta-Bocachica who was charged with obstruction of justice.  Héctor Leonardo López, 34; Julio Estiven Gracia Ramírez, 32; Andrés Álvaro Oviedo García, 22; Omar Fabián Valdes Gualtero, 28; and Édgar Javier Bello Murillo, 28, previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to kidnap and aiding and abetting the murder of an internationally protected person. 

On Dec. 12, 2014, López was sentenced to 25 years in prison, Gracia Ramírez was sentenced to 27 years in prison, and Oviedo García was sentenced to 20 years in prison.  Omar Fabián Valdes Gualtero and Édgar Javier Bello Murillo are scheduled to be sentenced on April 15, 2015.

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 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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