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Four Guilty in $7.1-Million Wells Fargo Robbery

From Associated Press

Four people were convicted Monday on charges stemming from the second-largest cash heist in U.S. history, a $7.1-million Wells Fargo robbery allegedly used to finance a group seeking to overthrow the government in Puerto Rico.

One defendant was acquitted.

Key defendant Juan Segarra Palmer III was convicted on charges of robbery, conspiracy and transportation of stolen money; he was found innocent on four weapons-related charges. All charges stemmed from the Sept. 12, 1983, theft of cash from the Wells Fargo depot in West Hartford.

Segarra, 39, a Harvard graduate, was charged in all 16 counts of the indictment and faced up to 150 years in prison if convicted on all counts. His bond was revoked.

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Convicted in addition to Segarra were Antonio Comacho Negron, 45, a car mechanic; Norman Ramirez Talavera, 32, a graphic artist, and Robert Maldonado Rivera, 53, a lawyer. The only defendant cleared was Carlos Ayes Suarez, 29, an anthropology student.

Comacho raised a clenched fist and denounced the proceedings in Spanish when he was led from the courtroom.

Linda Backiel, Comacho’s attorney, said he yelled: “The imperial power is showing how small it is.” She said Comacho would appeal his conviction.

“There are a lot of errors and it was a slim case,” she said. “Because he was a Puerto Rican patriot, he never expected justice and he won’t ask for mercy.”

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Segarra acknowledged that he knew about the robbery beforehand and received the stolen money to finance the activities of Los Macheteros, Spanish for “machete-wielders,” a group seeking the overthrow of the U.S. government in Puerto Rico.

But Segarra steadfastly denied that he helped plan or execute the robbery, as the government charged.

The other four defendants were charged with conspiracy and with either helping transport the stolen money or using part of it to finance toy giveaways in Hartford and Puerto Rico on Jan. 6, 1985.

The government contended that Los Macheteros recruited Wells Fargo guard Victor Gerena to carry out the robbery, then helped Gerena escape to Cuba, where he is believed to live now.

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The government presented 110 witnesses and more than 700 pieces of evidence, including tape-recorded conversations and documents seized from Los Macheteros members.

About $80,000 in what was believed to be stolen money was seized by FBI agents during searches in Puerto Rico and Boston on Aug. 30, 1985, when 13 people were arrested.


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