The gang charged with the murder of a DEA agent has confessed to taking at least 50 victims on “millionaire rides,” a form of robbery in which a victim is taken to an ATM and forced to take out money, often under the influence of drugs.
Details of their confessions came from information contained in the extradition request submitted by the US state department to the Colombian government. The details of the document were revealed by El Tiempo newspaper on Tuesday.
Seven Colombians were extradited to the United States, where six of them were indicted by a federal grand jury on July 18 for the kidnapping and murder of Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agent Terry Watson on June 20 in Bogota. Wilson Daniel Peralta-Bocachica was indicted separately for his alleged efforts to destroy evidence related to the murder.
Watson’s diplomatic status as an “internationally protected” agent meant that the US government could ask for the extradition of the criminal group, despite the fact that the crime was committed in Colombia by Colombian citizens.
Julio Estiven Gracia Ramirez, 30, admitted to taking part in some 50 “millionaire rides.” According to the extradition request, his role was to “profile and select the victims.”
It was his taxi that Watson entered on the night of June 20 after watching the last game of the NBA finals in a Bogota restaurant. The document states that “after a short distance, Gracia Ramirez signaled to the other members of the group that Watson would be their next victim.”
Gracia Ramirez apparently stopped the taxi and complained of “engine troubles”, allowing his accomplices in the taxi behind to drive up close and put the plan into action.
The driver of the second taxi was Hector Lionardo Lopez, 23. The document states that his role in the “millionaire rides” was to take and use the credit cards of the victim. That night he waited in the taxi as two other members of the gang, Edgar Javier Bello Murillo and Gerardo Figueroa Sepulveda, ran to Watson’s taxi and sat either side of him.
Sepulveda tried to paralyse the DEA agent using a stun gun, but after Watson continued to fight back Bello “stabbed him four times.”
In a July interview with RCN radio, Bello said that he stabbed Watson because he was “nervous… we weren’t professionals… I saw the blood on my hands as he fell from the car.” CCTV footage shows Watson stumbling from the taxi and then collapsing as the cars speed away.
Bello, 26, reportedly confessed to participating in 12 “millionaire rides,” in which he would do the threatening and resort to the knife if required. He maintains that no one in the gang knew that Watson was “a foreigner,” let alone an agent of the DEA.
Figueroa – at 38 the oldest in the gang – admitted to taking part in between 15 and 20 “millionaire rides,” in which he would carry a knife. On the night in question he also carried the stun gun, bought the day before in San Andresito, a shopping center in south Bogota, after each gang member chipped in $10.
The document says that, after the murder, a source had “spoken several times” with Figueroa, and also with Omar Fabian Valdes Gualtero, 27, who was apparently in the passenger seat of the second taxi. He admitted to particpating in 20-30 “millionaire rides.”
Another source alleges that after the murder the gang convened in a shop in Ciudad Bolivar, on the southern outskirts of Bogota, to drink aguardiente. The source says that someone called them to warn them that “the murder was all over news.” After which Bello allegedly confessed to “killing a guy the night before” and asked to be taken to his house so that “he could disappear.”
Newspaper El Espectador reports that the gang fled Bogota when they found out that their victim had been a DEA agent. Those who took part in the murder were each charged with two counts of second-degree murder, one count of kidnapping, and one count of conspiracy to kidnap.
Watson was a 13-year veteran of the DEA. He had been sent to Afghanistan three times on counter-narcotics trafficking assignments and had previously served in the Army and worked for the U.S. Marshals Service.
In August Colombian Senator Armando Benedetti of the coalition U Party introduced a bill to try and stop “millionaire rides.” He claims that “in the last two years, more than 200 people have been victims of [it] and so far this year there have been 35 reports of this crime in Bogota.”
- Banda que mató a agente de la DEA confesó 50 paseos millonarios (El Tiempo)
- Six Colombian Nationals Charged with Murder of DEA Agent (FBI)
- EE.UU. oficializó solicitud de extradición de implicados en crimen de agente de la DEA (El Espectador)
- Asesino de agente de la DEA pide perdón por el dolor causado (El Universal)