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September 24, 2014

Third Colombian National Pleads Guilty in Kidnapping and Murder of DEA Agent Terry Watson

WASHINGTON—A third 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 U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) made the announcement.

“This development marks yet another significant step forward in our effort to achieve justice for Special Agent Terry Watson, who gave his life in the service of his country,” said Attorney General Eric Holder. “This nation owes Special Agent Watson, and all of our fallen law enforcement personnel, a debt of gratitude we can never hope to repay. But we will never rest in our commitment to hold accountable all those responsible for his murder. That effort will continue. And his example will continue to guide and inspire us.”

Héctor Leonardo López, 34, 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, López 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. López admitted that he was part of the group of individuals that targeted and picked up Special Agent Watson, outside of 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. López admitted that he drove the second taxi, which carried the two individuals who attacked Special Agent Watson. López also admitted that part of his role in the robbery crew was to receive stolen bank cards and use them at various banks to take out money.

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; and Édgar Javier Bello Murillo, 27, 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. On Sept. 17, 2014, Andrés Álvaro Oviedo García, 22, pleaded guilty 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.

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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