A 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
“Special Agent Watson gave his life in the service of his country, and
we will do everything in our power to honor his sacrifice,” said
Attorney General Holder. “This conviction is a critical step forward.
But while this action represents the first measure of justice for his
kidnapping and murder, it will not be the last. The Department of
Justice will not rest until all those involved in this senseless act of
violence have been held to account for their crimes. Our nation will
never yield in the protection and defense of its citizens. And we will
continue to demonstrate that anyone who seeks to harm an American will
be found, will be prosecuted, and will be brought to justice.”
Julio Estiven Gracia Ramirez, 31, 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
Sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 5, 2014.
In a statement of facts filed with the plea agreement, Gracia Ramirez
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.
Gracia Ramirez admitted that he targeted Special Agent Watson and picked him up outside a Bogotá restaurant in his taxi.
Soon after, two conspirators entered Gracia Ramirez’s taxi, and
one used a stun gun to shock Special Agent Watson and the other stabbed
Special Agent Watson was able to escape from the taxi, but he later collapsed and died from his injuries.
Six other defendants have been charged in an indictment in the Eastern
District of Virginia for their alleged involvement in the murder of
Special Agent Watson.
Gerardo Figueroa Sepulveda, 39; Omar Fabian Valdes Gualtero, 27;
Edgar Javier Bello Murillo, 27; Hector Leonardo Lopez, 34; and Andrés
Alvaro Oviedo-Garcia, 22, are each charged with second degree murder,
kidnapping and conspiracy to kidnap.
Oviedo-Garcia is also charged with assault.
Wilson Daniel Peralta-Bocachica, 31, is charged for his alleged
efforts to destroy evidence associated with the murder of Special Agent
Trial is set for Jan. 12, 2015.
The charges in the indictment 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