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Man Pleads Guilty In 1983 Wells Fargo Robbery

February 10, 2010

Reprinted from The Hartford Courant

This mainstream news articles provides an update on Puerto Rican political prisoner, Avelino Gonzalez-Claudio. Visit prolibertadweb.tripod.com for more information.

A key figure in the $7.1 million Wells Fargo robbery in West Hartford nearly three decades ago abruptly pleaded guilty in federal court to charges that include smuggling the money out of the country.

Avelino Gonzalez-Claudio, 67, was a leader and strategist of Los Macheteros, a militant, Puerto Rico pro-independence group. In the 1970s and ‘80s, the group claimed responsibility for armed attacks on federal interests in Puerto Rico, two of which caused the deaths of U.S. military personnel.

Gonzalez-Claudio pleaded guilty Friday afternoon in U.S. District Court in Hartford to conspiracy to commit robbery and transportation of stolen money out of the country. Under terms of his plea agreement, he would be sentenced to 7 years in prison and a fine not to exceed $10,000. Sentencing is scheduled for later this year.

He has been in prison in Connecticut since the FBI arrested him in 2008 in Puerto Rico as he drove through the northern coastal city of Manati. While in prison, he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, and correctional authorities refused to provide him with medication until last month, said his lawyer, James Bergenn. In court, Gonzalez-Claudio appeared gaunt and emaciated, and the disease had taken such hold that he was barely able to speak.

Documents seized by the FBI showed that Macheteros planned to use the stolen millions to finance the violent overthrow of the U.S. government in Puerto Rico and to support leftist insurgencies elsewhere in Latin America. Los Macheteros recruited a young college drop-out from Hartford, Victor Gerena, to be its inside man in the Sept. 12, 1983, Wells Fargo robbery. Gerena obtained a job as a Wells Fargo guard, overpowered his co-workers with a pistol, injected them with a narcotic to incapacitate them, and helped stuff the cash into a battered sedan which was driven to the depot by fellow Macheteros.

Gonzalez-Claudio and other Macheteros were accused, among other things, of hiding the cash behind hollow walls in a used motor home and driving the money, in two trips, to Mexico. Wire-tapped conversations, seized documents and other intelligence shows that most of the stolen money was flown from Mexico to Cuba, where it ended up under the control of Cuba’s president at the time, Fidel Castro. Agents continue to seek the two remaining Machetero fugitives wanted in connection with the robbery: Gonzalez-Claudio’s brother, Norberto; and Gerena.

Avelino Gonzalez-Claudio #357422
MacDougall-Walker CI
1153 East Street
South Suffield, CT 06080

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