Alexander Beltran Herrera, 38, a commander of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) terrorist organization, was sentenced today to 27 years in prison on federal hostage-taking charges stemming from the 2003 capture of three U.S. citizens in Colombia. All told, members of the FARC held the Americans hostage for 1,967 days.
The sentence was announced by John P. Carlin, Assistant Attorney General for National Security, Ronald C. Machen Jr., U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia and George L. Piro, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Miami Division.
Beltran Herrera, aka Jhon Alexander Beltrain Herrera, aka Rodrigo Pirinolo, pled guilty on March 18, 2014, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, to three counts of hostage-taking. He was sentenced by the Honorable Senior Judge Royce C. Lamberth.
“In February 2003, the FARC – a Colombian terrorist organization – kidnapped three American citizens and held them captive for nearly 2,000 days,” said Assistant Attorney General Carlin. With the sentence handed down today, Alexander Beltran Herrera is being held accountable for his role in those offenses. This case underscores our resolve to pursue and bring to justice those who target our citizens with violence anywhere in the world. I want to thank all of the prosecutors, agents, and analysts who made this result possible.”
“This Colombian terrorist will spend the next 27 years in an American prison for his role in holding three U.S. citizens captive overseas,” said U.S. Attorney Machen. “Our fellow citizens were held hostage for more than five years under brutal conditions. This extradition, prosecution, and incarceration should chasten terrorists who doubt our resolve to serve justice on those who harm American citizens on foreign soil.”
“Alexander Beltran Herrera, a former terrorist commander for the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC), will now be held accountable for his role in holding three U.S. citizens hostage in Colombia for 1,967 days,” said Kelly M. Darden, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Miami Division. “Essential to bringing Beltran Herrera to justice was our close cooperation with the Colombian National Police.”
According to the government’s evidence, the FARC is an armed, violent organization in Colombia. Since its inception in 1964, it has engaged in an armed conflict to overthrow the Republic of Colombia, South America’s longest-standing democracy. The FARC has consistently used hostage taking as a primary technique in extorting demands from the Republic of Colombia, and hostage taking has been endorsed and commanded by FARC senior leadership. The FARC has characterized American citizens as “military targets” and has engaged in violent acts against Americans in Colombia, including murders and hostage taking. The FARC was designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S. Secretary of State in 1997 and remains so designated.
Beltran Herrera, a commander in the FARC, was involved in the hostage taking of three United States citizens: Marc D. Gonsalves, Thomas R. Howes, and Keith Stansell. These three, along with Thomas Janis, a United States citizen, and Sergeant Luis Alcides Cruz, a Colombian citizen, were seized on Feb. 13, 2003, by the FARC, after their single-engine aircraft made a crash landing in the Colombian jungle.
Members of the FARC murdered Janis and Cruz near the crash site. Gonsalves, Howes, and Stansell were held by the FARC at gunpoint and were advised by FARC leadership that they would be used as hostages to increase pressure on the government of Colombia to agree to the FARC’s demands. At various times, the FARC marched the hostages from one site to another, placing them in the actual custody of various FARC fronts.
At the conclusion of one 40-day long march, in or about November 2004, the hostages were delivered to members of the FARC’s 27th Front, who imprisoned the hostages for nearly two years. During part of this period, Beltran Herrera was responsible for moving the hostages and keeping them imprisoned. Throughout the captivity of these three hostages, FARC jailors and guards used choke harnesses, chains, padlocks and wires to restrain the hostages, and used force and threats to continue their detention and prevent their escape. In July 2008, the Colombian military conducted a daring operation which resulted in the rescue of the hostages.
Beltran Herrera was indicted in February 2011 and was extradited to the United States from Colombia in March 2012.
This case was investigated by the FBI’s Miami Division. The prosecution was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Anthony Asuncion and Fernando Campoamor-Sanchez from the National Security Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, and Trial Attorney David Cora, from the Counterterrorism Section of the Justice Department’s National Security Division. The case was indicted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kenneth Kohl, of the National Security Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The FBI’s Miami Division partnered in the investigation with the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs, the Department’s Judicial Attachés in Colombia, and the FBI’s Office of the Legal Attaché in Bogota, Colombia. The Directorate of Intelligence (DIPOL) and the Anti-Kidnapping Unit (GAULA) of the Colombian National Police also provided valuable support during the investigation.