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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Suspect in Natalee Holloway case expected to plead guilty to extorting her mother

Joran van der Sloot in Lima, Peru, last June, shortly before being extradited to the United States.

By Orlando Mayorquin

Joran van der Sloot, a Dutch national linked to the 2005 overseas disappearance of 18-year-old Natalee Holloway, is expected to plead guilty this week to extorting the missing Alabama teenager’s mother, Beth Holloway, a lawyer for Holloway said.

Van der Sloot, 36, had been in Peru serving a prison sentence for murder when he was extradited to the United States in June to face federal extortion and fraud charges stemming from a 2010 indictment. He had pleaded not guilty.

But van der Sloot has now reached a plea deal with federal prosecutors, according to John Q. Kelly, a lawyer for Beth Holloway who played a role in securing van der Sloot’s indictment.

A new plea and sentencing hearing has been scheduled for Wednesday in Birmingham, Alabama.

Van der Sloot’s public defender, James Gibson, could not immediately be reached on Saturday. The federal prosecutor on the case also could not be reached.

The authorities in Peru this year announced that they would temporarily extradite van der Sloot to face charges in the United States. He had been serving a 28-year sentence in the country for the 2010 murder of a 21-year-old student, Stephany Flores.

Van der Sloot was one of the last people to be seen with Natalee Holloway on May 30, 2005, the day she disappeared while on a trip with her high school class in Aruba, the Caribbean island nation and former Dutch colony where van der Sloot had been living.

Natalee Holloway’s whereabouts since have remained unknown. A judge declared her legally dead in 2012, and her remains have never been found.

Around the time van der Sloot was arrested in the killing of Flores, a federal grand jury in Alabama indicted him for trying to extort $250,000 from Beth Holloway in exchange for information on her daughter’s death and the location of her remains.

Holloway made an initial payment of $25,000 to van der Sloot as part of an FBI sting operation. The authorities said he provided her with what he knew to be false information.

Kelly and Holloway had welcomed the news of van der Sloot’s extradition in June, but on Saturday, the lawyer expressed concern about the apparent plea deal for van der Sloot.

As part of the deal, Kelly said, van der Sloot would share information with prosecutors about Natalee Holloway’s death and agree to plead guilty to all charges in the extortion case.

But Kelly was worried by the possibility that van der Sloot would provide false information, pointing out that he had changed his story and admitted to lying about Natalee Holloway’s killing in the past.

“We should expect nothing less this time around,” Kelly said in a statement Saturday. “But now he may be getting a sweetheart deal for his latest fabrication.”

Kelly added that the judge might even sentence van der Sloot on Wednesday. It was unclear what van der Sloot could receive as part of the plea deal.

Before van der Sloot serves any time in the United States, he is expected to first return to Peru to complete the rest of his sentence there.

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