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Suspect in $7 million robbery arrested after decades as fugitive

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Norberto Gonzalez Claudio is arrested in Puerto Rico
  • He is accused of participating in a 1983 Connecticut robbery that netted $7 million
  • FBI: The suspect is believed to be a member of the terrorist group Los Macheteros
  • The group seeks Puerto Rican independence, the FBI says

(CNN) -- A 65-year-old suspect in a $7 million Connecticut robbery was arrested more than two decades after the heist, the FBI said in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Norberto Gonzalez Claudio was arrested Tuesday in Cayey, Puerto Rico, the FBI said in a statement.

Gonzalez Claudio is accused of participating in the armed robbery of a Connecticut Wells Fargo depot on September 12, 1983. According to the FBI in Connecticut, the robbery of the armored car facility in West Hartford was one of the largest cash heists at the time, and dozens of collaborators have been arrested.

Two of Gonzalez Claudio's brothers were also indicted for the heist. Avelino Gonzalez Claudio was arrested in 2008 and sentenced in 2010 to seven years in prison. According to court records, Orlando Gonzalez Claudio was given probation in another case. It was not clear if he served time for the robbery.

A federal arrest warrant was issued in August 1985 charging Gonzalez Claudio with obstruction of commerce by robbery and conspiracy, the FBI said.

Another warrant was issued in March 1986 charging Gonzalez Claudio with bank robbery, aggravated robbery, theft from interstate shipment, foreign and interstate transportation of stolen money, and conspiracy to interfere with commerce by robbery, the FBI said.

If convicted, Gonzalez Claudio could face 275 years of imprisonment.

The FBI said Gonzalez Claudio, a native of Puerto Rico, is believed to be a member of the domestic terrorist organization Los Macheteros -- or "the machete wielders" -- which has claimed responsibility for several murders, armed robberies and terrorist bombings.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Connecticut has said the robbery was committed to fund the activities of Los Macheteros.

"The publicly stated goal of the Macheteros is to obtain the independence of Puerto Rico by armed struggle against the United States government," the FBI has said.

According to a 1985 indictment, the Macheteros funded themselves through "expropriations," including robbery.

Norberto Gonzalez Claudio and his brother Avelino are listed in the indictment as belonging to the group of Macheteros who devised the plan for Victor Manuel Gerena, an employee of Wells Fargo Armored Service, to rob his own company.

The organization used nicknames and codenames to avoid detection, the indictment states. Gerena, who was also a Macheteros member, was known as "Aguila," or eagle. The operation was known as the White Eagle.

After the robbery, the Macheteros moved Gerena and some of the stolen money into Mexico, the indictment states. After that, the group moved more money.

The same month as the robbery, the Macheteros transported Gerena to Cuba, according to the indictment.

Among the activities the group carried out with the stolen money was a gift giveaway in Puerto Rico, the court document states.

Although not as well known as other organizations with the terrorist label, the Macheteros in the late 1970s and 1980s claimed responsibility for numerous bombings and attacks on U.S. military personnel in Puerto Rico.