PREET BHARARA, the United States Attorney for the
Southern District of New York, and JOSEPH M. DEMAREST, JR., the
Assistant Director-in-Charge on the New York Office of the
Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), announced that LUIS
ARMANDO PEÑA SOLTREN arrived in the Southern District of New York
from Havana, Cuba, to face charges of allegedly hijacking Pan
American flight 281 on November 24, 1968, and diverting the
Puerto Rico-bound plane to Havana, Cuba. After 41 years of
living as a fugitive in Cuba, PEÑA SOLTREN, a U.S. citizen,
voluntarily returned to the United States and surrendered to
federal authorities yesterday at John F. Kennedy International
Airport. It was made clear to PEÑA SOLTREN by U.S. officials
that he would be arrested and prosecuted upon his return to the
United States. The Cuban government was aware of PEÑA SOLTREN’s
desire to return voluntarily to the United States and authorized
According to the Complaint and Indictment previously
filed in Manhattan federal court:
On November 24, 1968, PEÑA SOLTREN, along with coconspirators
JOSE RAFAEL RIOS CRUZ and MIGUEL CASTRO, boarded Pan
American flight 281 bound for San Juan, Puerto Rico. After the
airplane took flight, the defendants, wielding pistols and large
knives, forced their way into the cabin of the airplane and
ordered the crew to land in Havana, Cuba. CRUZ, 68, was
apprehended in 1975 and CASTRO, 78, was apprehended in 1976.
Both ultimately pleaded guilty to threatening the lives of flight
crew members. CRUZ and CASTRO were sentenced to 15 years in
prison and 12 years in prison, respectively, for their roles in
the Pan American flight 281 hijacking.
ALEJANDRO FIGUEROA was acquitted in 1969 after a benchtrial
before United States District Judge EDWARD WEINFELD.
PEÑA SOLTREN is charged in a four-count Indictment with
one count of conspiracy to commit air piracy and kidnapping, one
count of interference with flight crew members, one count of
aircraft piracy, and one count of kidnapping. If convicted,
SOLTREN faces a maximum sentence of life in prison. The case is
assigned to United States District Judge ALVIN K. HELLERSTEIN.
PEÑA SOLTREN, 66, is expected to appear in Manhattan
federal court on October 13, 2009.
PEÑA SOLTREN’s arrest was the result of the coordinated
efforts of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern
District of New York, FBI, U.S. Department of State, and U.S.
Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs. Mr.
BHARARA thanked them for their outstanding work.
“Luis Armando Peña Soltren will finally face the
American justice system that he has been evading for more than
four decades. As the 1968 charges allege, he terrorized dozens
of passengers when he and his cohorts wielded pistols and knives
to hijack Pan American flight 281. The passage of time does not
dull our resolve to bring fugitives like Peña Soltren to
justice,” said PREET BHARARA, the United States Attorney for the
Southern District of New York.
“This is yet another example of how justice delayed is
not justice denied. It is an example of the principle that, for
the FBI, fugitive cases don’t become closed cases until the
fugitive is brought to justice,” said JOSEPH M. DEMAREST, JR.,
the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Field Division
of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Assistant United States Attorney RYAN P. POSCABLO of
the Office’s General Crimes Unit is in charge of the prosecution.
The charges contained in the Indictment are merely
accusations and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and
until proven guilty in the court of law.