FBI Denies Bungling Joran van der Sloot Extortion Arrest

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

ByJohn Quinones and Sarah Netter via via logo
June 04, 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.

Peru Cops Looking for Links to Natalee Holloway

The FBI also said that reports that the feds provided the money to van der Sloot were inaccurate, saying, "The funds involved were private funds."

The statement today was similar to comments made to ABCNews.com last week when Peggy Sanford, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Birmingham, said they didn't have sufficient evidence at the time to issue a warrant for van der Sloot's arrest.

"It was a complete coincidence and tragedy that the other woman was murdered," Sanford said.

Van der Sloot is being held in a Lima jail for the alleged murder of Flores Ramirez, 21. The two met while gambling and drinking at a Lima casino, officials said. Police believe she was killed May 30, the five-year anniversary of Holloway's disappearance in Aruba.

Flores' battered body was found three days later, her neck broken. Van der Sloot, who had crossed the border into Chile, was nabbed there and extradited back to Peru.

In Peru, investigators are leaning on van der Sloot to give them information about Holloway's 2005 disappearance in Aruba during a school trip. He has been arrested twice in Aruba and remains the prime suspect, but has never been charged.

Master hackers hired by Peruvian authorities to examine his laptop have reportedly found pictures and other information relating to Holloway.

Investigators in Lima are also pressuring van der Sloot to take them to the hotel where Flores was killed to retrace his steps.

Police investigators told Lima's La Republica newspaper that van der Sloot's bombshell confession came late Monday night when he tearfully admitted that he grabbed Flores by the neck when she began reading articles about him on the Internet.

"I did not want to do it. The girl intruded into my private life," he told investigators, according to La Republica. "She had no right."

"I confronted her," he continued. "She was frightened, we argued and she wanted to get away. I grabbed her by the neck and I hit her."

Van der Sloot to Take Investigators to Scene of the Crime

Dave Holloway, Natalee Holloway's father, told "Good Morning America" Tuesday that search teams had been assembled in Aruba in case Peruvian investigators are able to glean any more information about the teenager's disappearance.

"He's confessed to this one," Holloway said of Flores' death, "and I'd like for him to tell everyone what happened."

Holloway said he's been closely following the Flores case, calling it "deja vu."

"I would just like to say that you know all the pain and suffering that we've gone through, hopefully justice is served this time," he said.

Peruvian authorities have been careful to document every step of their investigation, videotaping every move including a search of his belongings.

Flores' father, Peruvian politician and race car driver Ricardo Flores, told ABC News that van der Sloot's laptop "contains valuable information that may lead to more of Joran's victims."

"I think he killed many others," he said.

Prior to van der Sloot's reported confession, Peruvian authorities released videos of his interrogation and from the hotel where he brought Flores after a night of drinking and gambling.

In the video of his interrogation, van der Sloot can be seen calmly explaining where he's been and what he's carrying, including a laptop, cash from different countries and photos. He even seemed friendly with the officers on his long drive back from Chile to Lima.

When investigators asked him where his credit cards were, van der Sloot answered in broken Spanish.

"I have those back in my hotel in Santiago," he said on the video. "I went up to my hotel room and I saw these things on the Internet and I had to leave quickly."

The calm demeanor van der Sloot showed on the video was a stark contrast to the stunned, even frightened look on his face as he was paraded in front of a media frenzy upon his return to Lima.

On the hotel surveillance video, released this week, van der Sloot can be seen getting his room key from the front desk. Police said they believe Flores was walking behind him, her back to the camera.

Moments later another camera upstairs captured the two walking into van der Sloot's room.

Van der Sloot was captured on camera leaving the hotel alone four hours later, wearing a different shirt and carrying a bag and a backpack.

Though the hotel management declined to comment on why it took three days to discover Flores, sources told ABC News that van der Sloot had pre-paid for a two-week stay and demanded that no one enter his room.

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