HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) – An alleged Puerto Rican militant pleaded not guilty Thursday to federal charges related to a $7 million robbery of the Wells Fargo armored car depot in 1983.
Avelino Gonzalez Claudio, 65, is one of more than a dozen alleged members of the Puerto Rican nationalist group Los Macheteros believed by federal authorities to have planned and carried out the heist, one of the largest in American history.
He answered "not guilty" to counts of robbery by force of a federally insured bank, conspiracy to interfere with commerce by robbery, the interstate or foreign transport of stolen goods, and conspiracy against the United States.
Gonzalez, who was indicted but never arrested after the robbery, was held without bond pending a hearing Tuesday. Gonzalez's lawyer refused to comment.
Gonzalez was arrested earlier this month in Puerto Rico, where authorities said he had been living under the alias Jose Ortega Morales and working as a teacher at a private school.
The robbery in West Hartford was allegedly carried out by Victor Gerena, a Wells Fargo driver recruited by the independence group. Gonzalez is accused of helping get Gerena and the half-ton of cash out of the United States.
The Macheteros, whose name is variously translated as the "Machete Wielders" or "Cane Cutters," are suspected of using the money to finance a series of bombings and attacks designed to promote independence for the U.S. territory.
Their alleged leader, Filiberto Ojeda Rios, was killed in a 2005 shootout with the FBI at a remote farmhouse in Puerto Rico.
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.