Three Defendants Sentenced And Two Additional Defendants Plead Guilty For Their Roles In The Kidnapping And Murder Of DEA Agent James “Terry” Watson
Sentences of 27, 25, and 20 years for three of the defendants involved in the murder
ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Three Colombian nationals were sentenced today for their roles in the kidnapping and murder of Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agent James “Terry” Watson in Bogota, 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.
“Throughout his law enforcement career, Special Agent Watson’s service was both selfless and courageous,” said Attorney General Eric Holder. “With this action, we continue our work to hold accountable those who were responsible for his murder. In the weeks ahead, we expect to take additional steps to bring the perpetrators to justice. And in all that we do, our nation's Department of Justice will continue to honor Special Agent Watson’s sacrifice, to safeguard the nation he served, and to protect the values and principles he defended all his life.”
“Special Agent Watson’s kidnapping and murder is a tragic reminder of the dangers that exist for Americans abroad,” said U.S. Attorney Boente. “The sentences delivered today are also a reminder. They are a reminder of the commitment of the Justice Department, this office, and our investigative partners to protect and defend Americans abroad who are victims of crime. We will continue to press forward in this case until all those responsible have been brought to justice.”
“DEA will never forget the sacrifice of Special Agent Terry Watson, nor will we rest until those responsible for his kidnapping and murder are brought to justice for this horrific act,” said DEA Administrator Leonhart. “While this is certainly not the final step, we are pleased that another criminal facilitator in this awful tragedy is answering for his actions in a U.S. courtroom.”
Hector Leonardo Lopez, 34, Julio Estiven Gracia Ramirez, 32, and Andres Alvaro Oviedo Garcia, 22, previously pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting the murder of an internationally protected person and conspiracy to kidnap an internationally protected person. Today, U.S. District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee sentenced Lopez to 25 years in prison, Gracia Ramirez to 27 years in prison, and Oviedo Garcia to 20 years in prison. Each also was sentenced to five years of supervised release.
In addition, today, Wilson Daniel Peralta-Bocachica, 31, pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice and, on Dec. 9, 2014, Edwin Gerardo Figueroa Sepulveda, 39, pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting the murder of an internationally protected person and conspiracy to kidnap an internationally protected person. Sentencing hearings for Peralta-Bocachica and Figueroa Sepulveda are scheduled for Feb. 18, 2015.
In the statements of facts filed with the plea agreements, Lopez, Gracia Ramirez, Oviedo Garcia, and Figueroa Sepulveda admitted that they conspired to conduct “paseo milionarios” or “millionaire’s rides” in Bogota, Colombia in which victims were lured into taxi cabs, kidnapped and then robbed. They admitted that on the evening of June 20, 2013, they were part of a group that targeted Special Agent Watson. Gracia Ramirez drove the taxi that picked up Special Agent Watson, Lopez drove the second taxi that was used to carry the assailants, and Figueroa Sepulveda entered the taxi carrying Special Agent Watson and shocked him with a stun gun while another defendant stabbed him. Special Agent Watson was able to escape from the taxi, but he later collapsed and died from his injuries. Oviedo Garcia was part of the group that attacked Special Agent Watson, however, shortly before Special Agent Watson was targeted a third taxi encountered mechanical issues and Oviedo Garcia stayed with the disabled taxi. In the days following the kidnapping and murder, Peralta-Bocachica washed the taxi in which Special Agent Watson was stabbed, removing blood from the back seat of the taxi and discarding the rags that were used to clean the taxi before turning the taxi over to the Colombian National Police.
Two other defendants were charged in this case for their alleged involvement in the murder of Special Agent Watson. Omar Fabian Valdes Gualtero, 27, and Edgar Javier Bello Murillo, 27, are charged by indictment with second degree murder, kidnapping and conspiracy to kidnap. 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, Bogotà Metropolitan Police, Bogotà Police Intelligence Body (CIPOL) Unit and Colombian Technical Investigation Team for their extraordinary efforts, support and professionalism in responding to this incident.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER.