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Hartford Wells Fargo Trial: 1988-89

Background To The Robbery

The organization that these individuals were accused of being involved with, Los Macheteros, was one of several in a decades-old struggle by some Puerto Ricans to attain total independence for their island. Leading independistas had been imprisoned for violent and/or "seditious" actions since the 1930s. In the early 1980s the U.S. government had begun a major campaign to crack down on groups of Puerto Ricans charged with conducting a series of bombings of U.S. government, military, and corporate targets (one of which killed two U.S. sailors). Los Macheteros, organized by a leading radical nationalist, Filiberto Ojeda Rios, and based primarily in Puerto Rico, actually took credit for some of these actions. When the government rounded up and charged the 19—including Ojeda Rios—with involvement in the Wells Fargo robbery, some of the individuals openly boasted that Los Macheteros had indeed masterminded it.

In proceedings leading up to the trial, nine defendants, including Ojeda Rios, were severed from the others because the government was appealing a ruling that threw out 50 reels of wiretap tapes crucial to their cases. Charges against three others were dismissed. That left seven defendants to face a trial. Two of these, however, would choose to plea bargain with the government before the case went to trial. Luz Berrios Berrios, wife of the leading defendant, Juan Segarra Palmer, pled guilty to sending several thousand of the stolen dollars to Hartford to buy toys for Puerto Rican children and was sentenced to five years. Paul S. Weinberg, a lawyer and college classmate of Segarra pled guilty to a misdemeanor for his connection with the transportation of the stolen money. Hewas sentenced to a year in prison. With these matters disposed of, the trial of the remaining five defendants proceeded.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1981 to 1988Hartford Wells Fargo Trial: 1988-89 - The Perfect Crime?, Background To The Robbery, Trial Focuses On Conspiracy, Mystery And Controversy Linger On