FBI arrests man in 1983 militant robbery

Other News Materials 8 February 2008 08:37 (UTC +04:00)

( AP ) - A Puerto Rican militant suspected in a 1983 Connecticut robbery - among the country's largest cash heists at the time - was arrested Thursday in the U.S. territory, where he lived quietly under an assumed name, the FBI said.

Avelino Gonzalez Claudio, 65, an alleged member of a Puerto Rican independence group, Los Macheteros, was captured while driving in the northern town of Manati, said Luis Fraticelli, the FBI special agent in charge of Puerto Rico.

Gonzalez was among more than a dozen people indicted in the Sept. 12, 1983, robbery of about $7 million from a Wells Fargo armored car depot in West Hartford, Conn.

Fraticelli declined to say what led to the arrest or if authorities had any leads on the two remaining fugitives: Norberto Gonzalez Claudio, a brother of Avelino Gonzalez Claudio, and Victor Gerena, the robbery's alleged mastermind believed to be in Cuba."The FBI is not going to end its investigation," he said. "The FBI is going to keep searching for fugitives."

Authorities believe Gonzalez lived under the alias Jose Ortega Morales, and worked as a teacher at a private school.

Gonzalez - wearing a pale yellow dress shirt and blue jeans, with his gray hair tied in a small ponytail - made an initial appearance before a judge in federal court but did not enter a plea. Another hearing was scheduled for Monday to establish his identity and determine bail.

"I don't think he is going to deny that he is Avelino Gonzalez Claudio," said his attorney, Juan Ramon Acevedo. "He is going to confront the charges."

It was not known when he would be extradited to Connecticut to face charges that include robbery and transport of stolen money. He could be sentenced up to 275 years in prison if convicted of all charges.

Authorities have long suspected that Los Macheteros used proceeds from the robbery to finance attacks aimed at forcing the U.S. to grant Puerto Rico independence. The group is suspected in a series of such bombings and attacks staged throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Their alleged leader, Filiberto Ojeda Rios, was killed in a 2005 shootout with the FBI at a remote farmhouse in Puerto Rico.