Two Colombian nationals were sentenced to decades in U.S. federal prison today for their roles in the kidnapping and murder of former Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agent James “Terry” Watson in Bogotá, Colombia, on June 20, 2013.
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 (DSS) made the announcement.
“With these sentencings, all seven defendants involved in the kidnapping and murder of Special Agent Terry Watson have been found, prosecuted, and brought to justice,” said Attorney General Holder. “Special Agent Watson was a courageous patriot, a principled law enforcement agent, and a proud defender of the rule of law. Our nation owes him and his loved ones a debt we can never repay. And although our prosecution of his heinous attackers has come to its rightful close, the Department of Justice will never rest in our efforts to honor Special Agent Watson’s life of service and sacrifice by upholding the values that he served to protect.”
“DEA is grateful that the final two defendants connected to Terry Watson’s murder faced justice in a U.S. court of law for their heinous crime," said Administrator Leonhart. “Terry will be remembered for his bravery, dedication and loyalty to our agency’s mission, and his presence is missed every day by the men and women of DEA. Throughout this ordeal, the Watson family has remained in our thoughts and prayers, and we will never forget their sacrifice.”
Édgar Javier Bello Murillo, 28, and Omar Fabián Valdes Gualtero, 28, were sentenced today to 440 months in prison and 348 months in prison, respectively, by U.S. District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee of the Eastern District of Virginia. Both pleaded guilty to second degree murder and conspiracy to kidnap an internationally protected person on Dec. 19, 2014.
In the statements of facts filed with their plea agreements, Valdes Gualtero and Bello Murillo admitted that they conspired to conduct “paseo milionarios” or “millionaire’s rides” in which victims were lured into taxi cabs, kidnapped and then robbed. Both admitted that, on the evening of June 20, 2013, they were a 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. Bello Murillo admitted that he entered the taxi in which Special Agent Watson was riding and stabbed him multiple 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 pleaded guilty for their respective roles in the kidnapping and murder: Julio Estiven Gracia Ramírez, 32; Héctor Leonardo López, 34; Andrés Álvaro Oviedo García, 22; Edwin Gerardo Figueroa Sepúlveda, 40; Valdes Gualtero; and Bello Murillo. On Dec. 12, 2014, Gracia Ramírez was sentenced to 27 years in prison, López was sentenced to 25 years in prison and Oviedo García was sentenced to 20 years in prison. On Feb. 18, 2015, Figueroa Sepúlveda was sentenced to 30 years in prison. A seventh defendant, Wilson Daniel Peralta-Bocachica, 31, pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice for cleaning the taxi cab in which the attack occurred before turning it in to the Colombian National Police. On Feb. 18, 2015, Peralta-Bocachica was sentenced to 40 months in prison.
This case was investigated by the FBI, DEA and DSS, in close cooperation with Colombian authorities and with assistance from INTERPOL and the Criminal Division’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.