Fugitive for 25 Years Also Admits Illegal Possession of Machine Gun
The United States Attorneys for the District of Connecticut and the District of Puerto Rico announced that Norberto Gonzalez-Claudio, 67, pleaded guilty today before Senior United States District Judge Alfred V. Covello in Hartford to federal charges related to his involvement in a 1983 armored truck robbery of approximately $7 million in West Hartford, Connecticut, and a separate charge of illegally possessing a machine gun at the time of his arrest in May 2011.
“After more than a quarter century on the run, this defendant has admitted his guilt to charges related a $7 million armored truck robbery,” stated U.S. Attorney Fein. “I commend the FBI in Connecticut and Puerto Rico, as well as the U.S. Marshals Service, for never resting in investigating this case and apprehending the remaining fugitives. Their combined efforts demonstrate the resolve of law enforcement in the pursuit of justice.”
“Today’s plea is the result of an investigation that has spanned nearly 30 years and underscores the FBI’s tireless pursuit of justice,” stated Kimberly K. Mertz, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Connecticut. “The collaborative efforts of the FBI in San Juan and New Haven, and in all divisions of the FBI, will continue until all involved in the ‘Wells Fargo robbery’ are brought to justice.”
According to court documents and statements made in court, Gonzalez-Claudio conspired with others to rob approximately $7 million in cash from the Wells Fargo Armored Service Corporation in West Hartford and to transport the stolen money to Mexico. In pleading guilty, Gonzalez-Claudio acknowledged that he and other co-conspirators approved and authorized the robbery, which occurred on September 12, 1983.
During previous trials of several co-defendants, the government introduced evidence that the robbery was perpetrated to fund the activities of Los Macheteros, a clandestine organization that seeks Puerto Rican independence. Gonzalez-Claudio pleaded guilty to count 12 of a superseding indictment, which charged him with foreign transportation of stolen money, and count 16, which charged him with conspiracy to rob federally insured bank funds, to commit theft from interstate shipment, and to transport stolen money in interstate and foreign commerce.
Gonzalez-Claudio also pleaded guilty to one count of illegal possession of a machine gun, which was found in his residence following his arrest in Cayey, Puerto Rico, on May 10, 2011. Gonzalez-Claudio had been a fugitive for more than 25 years. He has been detained since his arrest.
Judge Covello has scheduled sentencing for September 27, 2012, at which time Gonzalez-Claudio faces a maximum term of imprisonment of 15 years and a fine of up to $20,000 on the Wells Fargo robbery charges and a maximum term of imprisonment of 10 years and a fine of up to $250,000 on the machine gun charge. In a binding plea agreement, subject to approval by the court, the parties have agreed that a sentence of five years’ imprisonment on the Wells Fargo charges and a concurrent sentence of 37 months of imprisonment on the machine gun charge is an appropriate disposition of this case.
Of the 19 defendants charged in this case, one fugitive, Victor Manuel Gerena, is still being sought. Gerena is alleged to have carried out the armed robbery in West Hartford. The FBI is offering a reward of up to $1 million for information leading directly to Gerena’s arrest (http://www.fbi.gov/wanted/topten/victor-manuel-gerena/view).
As to Gerena, U.S. Attorney Fein stressed that an indictment is not evidence of guilt. Charges are only allegations, and each defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
This matter is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in New Haven and San Juan, with the assistance of the United States Marshals Service. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Henry K. Kopel and Paul H. McConnell and by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Leonard C. Boyle of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Connecticut and by Assistant U.S. Attorney Ilianys Rivera Miranda of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Puerto Rico.