White Eagle (robbery)

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White Eagle was the name given by Los Macheteros (a guerrilla group seeking Puerto Rican independence from the United States) to its robbery of a Wells Fargo depot on September 12, 1983, a day coinciding with the birth date of Puerto Rican Nationalist Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos.[1] The robbery took place in West Hartford, Connecticut, and netted more than $7 million ($17 million today).[2] At the time of the robbery, it was the largest cash heist in U.S. history.[3]


The group's code name for the robbery was "White Eagle" (or Águila Blanca in Spanish). According to the Macheteros, part of the money was given to the poor communities of Puerto Rico to fund education, food, housing, clothing and toys for children.[1] According to prosecutors, the money was used to finance Los Macheteros. About $80,000 in what was believed to be stolen money was seized by Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents in searches in Puerto Rico and Boston. The federal government contends that the group spent about $1 million, moved more than $2 million to Cuba, and hid $4 million in safe deposit boxes, certificates of deposit, savings accounts and farmhouse cellars in Puerto Rico.[4]


The FBI charges for this robbery include obstruction of commerce by robbery and conspiracy, bank robbery, aggravated robbery, theft from interstate shipment, foreign and interstate transportation of stolen money, and conspiracy to interfere with commerce by robbery.[5]


Juan Segarra Palmer, one of the leaders of the group, was sentenced to 65 years in prison.[6] In 1999, he was one of the FALN members whose sentences were commuted by President Bill Clinton. Filiberto Ojeda Rios was sentenced in absentia to 55 years in prison. His lawyer stated that Ojeda jumped bail because he did not think he could get a fair trial.[7] In a case that drew criticism from the government of Puerto Rico, Ojeda was shot and killed in a shootout when the FBI raided his hideout in Puerto Rico in 2005.[8][9]

According to one of the group members, the federal officials prosecuting the case, in recognition of the international right of peoples of colonized countries to armed fight for their independence, never asked for the return of the money, and that some of the defendants were given either light or no sentences. The group asserts that the money was not used for personal gain, but to further the struggle for Puerto Rico's independence.[1]

In 2010, Avelino González-Claudio was sentenced for his part in planning the robbery to seven years in prison and "ordered to pay back the money," according to The Hartford Courant.[10]

Victor Manuel Gerena is still at large and listed as one of the FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitives.

See also

List of large value U.S. robberies