By Jim Kouri
The U.S. Department of Justice on Monday announced the extradition of a suspected Latin American-based terrorist who was involved in the abduction of American citizens who were held for ransom or executed, according to a report obtained by the 14,000-member National Association of Chiefs of Police.
Alexander Beltran Herrera a/k/a Jhon Alexander Beltrain Herrera, a/k/a Rodrigo Pirinolo, an accused member of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), was extradited from Bogota, Colombia to Washington, DC, to face hostage taking and terrorism charges in the United States, according to the DOJ press office.
Beltran Herrera was secretly extradited from Colombia to the U.S. during the weekend to face charges in a federal grand jury indictment handed down on February 22, 2011, according to a narcotics unit commander.
The indictment names as defendants 18 members of the FARC, and specifically charges 37-year old Herrera with one count of conspiracy to commit hostage-taking; three counts of hostage-taking; one count of using and carrying a firearm during a crime of violence; one count of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists; and one count of conspiracy to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization.
“FARC is on both the U.S. State and Treasury Departments’ lists of terrorists groups. Originally a Marxist revolutionary group advocating the overthrow of the Colombian government, FARC morphed into a drug-trafficking, organized crime organization with ties to Mexican and South-Central American organized crime gangs,” said Det. Lt. Stephen Hodges, a commander of a police narcotics unit in Pennsylvania, during a telephone conversation with the Law Enforcement Examiner.
Beltran Herrera was arraigned Monday before Judge Royce C. Lamberth in federal court in the District of Columbia and entered a not guilty plea. If convicted of all the charges against him, he faces a maximum sentence of life in prison, according to the DOJ report.
According to the indictment, the FARC has consistently used hostage-taking as a primary technique in extorting demands from the Colombian government. Hostage-taking has been endorsed and commanded by FARC senior leadership, according to Det. Lt. Hodges.
“This group’s members are more terrorists than criminals and they’re hatred for Americans has resulted in categorizing U.S. citizens as military targets. This has led to violent acts against Americans in Colombia, including murders and hostage taking,” said Hodges, who spent time as a volunteer police advisor in South America.
The federal indictment alleges that:
Beltran Herrera was a member of the 27th Front in the FARC’s Southern Block.
Beltran Herrera was allegedly involved in the hostage taking of three U.S. citizens, Marc D. Gosalves, Thomas R. Howes, and Keith Stansell, who were military contractors.
These three individuals, along with Thomas Janis, a U.S. citizen, and Sergeant Luis Alcides Cruz, a Colombian citizen, were seized on February 13, 2003 by the FARC after their single engine aircraft made a crash landing near Florencia, Colombia.
Janis and Cruz were murdered at the crash site by members of the FARC.
According to the indictment, 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 international pressure on the government of the Republic of Colombia to agree to the FARC’s demands.
The FARC at various times 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 march, in or about November 2004, the hostages were delivered to members of the FARC’s 27th Front, commanded by Daniel Tamayo Sanchez, who was responsible for the hostages for nearly two years, after which they were delivered to the FARC’s 1st Front.
During part of this two-year period with the 27th Front, Beltran Herrera was responsible for moving the hostages and keeping them imprisoned, according to the indictment.
Throughout the captivity of these three hostages, FARC jailors and guards, including Beltran Herrera, used choke harnesses, chains, padlocks, and wires to restrain the hostages, and used force and threats to continue their detention and prevent their escape, the indictment noted.
The indictment also accuses Beltran Herrera of using and carrying a military-type machine gun during the hostage taking and providing material support and resources to aid in the hostage taking and to aid the FARC.
“This extradition further disrupts and dismantles the FARC, a foreign terrorist organization that has engaged in violent acts against American and Colombian citizens,” said FBI Acting Special Agent in Charge Dena Choucair.
“The outstanding, long-term cooperation between the Colombian National Police and U.S. law enforcement has struck another blow to international terrorism,” Choucair said in a statement.