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Hartford Wells Fargo Trial: 1988-89

Mystery And Controversy Linger On

The robber who was at the heart of this whole case had all but been lost sight of in the course of the trial. The government, even after five years, still had little definite knowledge of just how Gerena came to be involved with Los Macheteros, or how he got away with the money, or where he was. All that would come out many years later: how he had been recruited by Segarra through mutual contacts in the Hartford Puerto Rican community—probably because Gerena's mother was politically active; how soon after the robbery Gerena had been smuggled across the border into Mexico (with about $2 million) in the same motor home later used to get the rest of the money into Mexico; and how Gerena flew from Mexico to Cuba, where he almost certainly remained ever since.

There are numerous claims as to what happened to the $7.1 million. The usual story is that at least $2 million was taken by Gerena to Cuba; Ojeda Rios, founder of Los Macheteros denies that. In fact, the U.S. government claims it has records proving that much of the money was dispensed to various individuals in New England and Puerto Rico. It would also come out later that Cuban agents had given Segarra and the Los Macheteros some $50,000 to support the robbery. Even more unsettling, it was revealed that the U.S. government knew from early on that Cuba had been supporting, even directing, the violent activities of Los Macheteros and other Puerto Rican radical groups but chose not to bring that into the trial.

And in what aroused considerable controversy at the time, in August 2000 President William Clinton issued executive clemency to 16 Puerto Rican radicals involved in various actions on behalf of the Puerto Rican independence movement. Among them were Segarra and Camacho, who had their sentences reduced (although Segarra would have to serve five more years), and Maldonado and Ramirez, who had their outstanding fines forgiven. Because the clemency was conditional on renouncing all further activities and associations with independistas, Camacho declined. Meanwhile, the world was still awaiting the final chapter of the Wells Fargo robbery—the fate of Victor Gerena.

John S. Bowman

Suggestions for Further Reading

Fernandez, Ronald. Los Macheteros: The Wells Fargo Robbery and the Violent Struggle for Puerto Rican Independence. New York: Prentice Hall, 1987.

Hartford Couran. October 11, 12, 13, 14, 25, 26, 29, 1988; December 1, 2, 3, 1988; January 11, 12, 13, 1989; February 1, 3, 4, 1989; March 28, 29, 30, 1989; April 11, 12, 1989; June 16, 1989.

Additional topics

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