FBI Denies Bungling Joran van der Sloot Extortion Arrest

Feds reject suggestion that they let him get away and kill woman in Peru.

ByABC News via GMA logo
June 4, 2010, 8:30 AM

June 9, 2010— -- The FBI denied today suggestions that it moved too slowly after monitoring alleged extortion payments to murder suspect Joran van der Sloot, allowing him to travel to Peru where he admits he killed a woman he met in a casino.

The Dutch playboy has confessed to the May 30 murder of Stephany Flores Ramirez.

The attack on Flores came nearly three weeks after the FBI admits that it monitored payments to van der Sloot in what it says was an attempt to extort $250,000 from someone in Mountain Brook, Ala., the hometown of missing high school girl Natalee Holloway.

Family members have told ABC News that the target of the alleged extortion plot was Holloway's mother, Beth Twitty.

The FBI's Birmingham office has said that it was leading an investigation on May 10 when $15,000 was wired to a Dutch bank for van der Sloot. The money, the FBI said, was supposed to be in exchange for information about what happened to Holloway and the location of her body.

News reports state that van der Sloot was also given $10,000 in cash, and that he was caught on tape counting the cash.

Fox News correspondent Greta Van Susteren said today on "Good Morning America" that the FBI's failure to arrest van der Sloot was "a blunder."

Van Susteren called the chain of events a "huge embarrassment" for U.S. authorities. "I don't know why they didn't arrest him and I'm sure the FBI feels horrible about what happened," she said.

The FBI issued a statement today rejecting any suggestion that it allowed van der Sloot to slip away and kill Flores several weeks later.

"News accounts have also questioned why charges were not brought earlier, so that the tragic death of Stephany Flores could have been avoided," the statement said. "The Birmingham investigation was not related in any way to the murder in Peru. Despite having been in motion for several weeks at the time of Miss Flores' death, it was not sufficiently developed to bring charges prior to the time van der Sloot left Aruba."

The lack of an arrest in the extortion case, it said, "is not due to any fault on the part of the FBI or the U.S. Attorney's Office."

"A case based on events outside of the United States is a complex matter, and work was proceeding with all deliberate speed to prepare the evidence, the charges and the necessary procedures to obtain custody of van der Sloot," the statement said.