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December 19, 2014

Two Remaining Colombian Nationals Involved in the Kidnapping and Murder of DEA Agent Terry Watson Plead Guilty

WASHINGTON—Two Colombian nationals pleaded guilty today to second degree murder and conspiracy to kidnap an internationally protected person 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.

“The Department of Justice has now obtained pleas for all seven individuals charged with the kidnapping and murder of Special Agent Watson, as well as the attempt to cover up the crime,” said Attorney General Eric Holder. “Although this marks an important milestone in our effort to achieve justice for a fallen hero, our work is far from over. The Justice Department will never rest in its commitment to honor the service, and the profound sacrifice, of Special Agent Watson and so many other courageous men and women in federal law enforcement. And we will never waver in our pursuit of criminals who target or seek to harm Americans anywhere in the world.”

“Special Agent Terry Watson’s kidnapping and murder resulted in a loss that will always be felt by the men and women of DEA,” said DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart. “Today’s admission of guilt brings us closer to ensuring that justice is served in this tragedy. DEA will never forget Terry’s outstanding career and the work he did with our global partners in the shared fight against international drug traffickers.”

In the statements of facts filed with their plea agreements, Omar Fabián Valdes Gualtero, 28, and Édgar Javier Bello Murillo, 28, both of Bogotá, admitted that they conspired with four other individuals—Edwin Gerardo Figueroa Sepúlveda, Julio Estiven Gracia Ramírez, Héctor Leonardo López, and Andrés Álvaro Oviedo García—to conduct “paseo milionarios” or “millionaire’s rides” in which victims were lured into taxi cabs, kidnapped, and then robbed. Valdez Gualtero admitted that he was responsible for helping to organize the robbery crew and obtaining disposable cell phones for use during the robberies. Both defendants admitted that on the evening of June 20, 2013, their robbery crew targeted Special Agent Watson outside of a restaurant in Bogotá. Gracia Ramírez picked up Special Agent Watson in his taxi, while López drove a second taxi carrying Valdes Gualtero, Bello Murillo and Figueroa Sepúlveda. After Gracia Ramírez pretended to have mechanical trouble and stopped the taxi, Bello Murillo and Figueroa Sepúlveda entered the back seat with Special Agent Watson. A struggle ensued and Figueroa Sepúlveda shocked Special Agent Watson with a stun gun while Bello Murillo stabbed him at least four times. Special Agent Watson was able to escape from the taxi, but he later collapsed and died from his injuries.     

In total, seven defendants were arrested and extradited from Colombia to the United States to face charges in connection with Special Agent Watson’s murder and the subsequent attempt to cover up the crime. Six defendants were charged with murder and conspiracy to kidnap. A seventh defendant, Wilson Daniel Peralta-Bocachica, was charged with obstruction of justice for his role in cleaning the victim’s blood from the backseat of the taxi. All of the defendants have pleaded guilty for their roles in this incident. Gracia Ramírez, López, and Oviedo García were sentenced on Dec. 14, 2014, to 20 years, 25 years, and 27 years, in prison respectively. Figueroa Sepúlveda and Peralta-Bocachica are scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 18, 2015. Valdes Gualtero and Bello Murillo are scheduled to be sentenced on April 10, 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 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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