A federal judge denied a bond request Thursday from a Puerto Rican nationalist charged in one of the largest cash robberies in U.S. history, saying the man lived as a fugitive for more than 25 years and cannot be trusted to appear for trial.
Norberto Gonzalez Claudio, who was captured by the FBI in Puerto Rico in May, asked to be released from a Rhode Island detention center so that he could consult associates more easily as he considers his legal options in the case of the 1983 Connecticut robbery.
Several family members and supporters offered to put up $400,000 in real estate to secure his bond, and Gonzalez gave assurances he would not jeopardize their finances by fleeing.
But Magistrate Judge Thomas Smith said in his ruling that the risk of flight was too great to release Gonzalez.
"Mr. Gonzalez-Claudio's ties to his family were not powerful enough to keep him from living as a fugitive for over 25 years and, hence, the court cannot place much credence in his promise," Smith wrote.
Gonzalez, who is in his mid-60s, is accused of aiding the 1983 robbery of $7 million from a Wells Fargo armored car depot in West Hartford, Conn. The heist, the largest cash robbery in U.S. history at the time, was orchestrated by Los Macheteros, a militant wing of the broader movement for Puerto Rican independence.
Gonzalez has pleaded not guilty to federal charges including bank robbery, conspiracy and transportation of stolen money.
In his ruling, Smith noted that the agents who arrested Gonzalez in a town in central Puerto Rico also found in his possession bomb-making manuals and an unregistered, loaded machine gun at his bedside. He said that in addition to any prison time imposed in Connecticut, Gonzalez faces potential imprisonment in Puerto Rico for having the weapon.