Saturday, July 20, 2013

Colombia: Update--Six Charged in Stabbing Death of US DEA Agent in Bogotá

According to The Latin American Tribune, six Colombian nationals were indicted on Thursday (July 18) by a federal grand jury in the Eastern District of Virginia for the kidnapping and murder of Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agent James Watson.

Gerardo Figueroa Sepulveda, 38; Omar Fabian Valdes Gualtero, 27; Edgar Javier Bello Murillo, 26; Hector Leonardo López, 23; Julio Estiven Gracia Ramirez, 30; and Andres Alvaro Oviedo-García, 21, were each charged with two counts of second degree murder, one count of kidnapping and one count of conspiracy to kidnap. Oviedo-Garcia was also charged with two counts of assault.

Additionally, the grand jury indicted Wilson Daniel Peralta-Bocachica, 30, also a Colombian national, for his alleged efforts to destroy evidence associated with the murder of Watson.

According to the indictment, Figueroa, Valdes, Bello, López, Gracia and Oviedo-García were part of a kidnapping and robbery conspiracy that utilized taxi cabs in the Colombia capital to lure victims into a position where they could be attacked and robbed. 

Once an intended victim enters a taxi, the driver of the taxi will signal co-conspirators to commence the robbery and/or kidnapping operation.

COMMENT: As I have noted in previous postings, I strongly encourage foreign travelers to NOT hail taxis on the street, but rather ask their embassy for a list of reputable dispatched taxis in the city in which they are located.

In this way, visitors can call one of the top three reputable taxi companies that are dispatched to request a pick-up at a given location, rather than being vulnerable to hailed taxis.

It should be emphasized that it is a common practice in Latin America to lure foreign travelers into a taxi which may or may not be operated by a licensed, reputable taxi so that they can be robbed of cash, credit/ATM/debit cards, mobile phones and other valuables.

The indictment alleges that on June 20, 2013, while he was working for the US Embassy in Bogotá, entered a taxi cab operated by one of the defendants. Watson was then allegedly attacked by two other defendants, one of whom neutralized Watson with a stun gun and another who stabbed the federal agent with a with a knife.

This case is being investigated by the FBI, DEA and Diplomatic Security Service, in close cooperation with Colombian authorities, and with assistance from INTERPOL and the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs. 

It is the US government's intention that the Colombian government will cooperate in the extradition of those complicit in the agent's death to Alexandria, VA. 

NOTE: Please go to http://tappsi.co/english1 and download the appropriate app to your mobile phone so that a reputable taxi will be dispatched to your location when you need a taxi. At the moment, service is only available in Bogotá and Barranquilla.