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 announcement.
“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 person.
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 him.
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 Watson.
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 incident.