-WASHINGTON – The FBI thought it was closing in on Joran Van der Sloot in the Natalee Holloway missing-teenager case, paying him at least $15,000 in a sting operation, federal officials said Wednesday. But when the agency delayed his arrest to build a murder case, he took the money and headed for Peru, where authorities say he now has confessed to killing a different young woman.
Federal law enforcement officials and a private investigator say the work on Holloway’s disappearance was revived about six weeks ago when van der Sloot reached out to someone close to the Alabama teenager’s mother and requested $250,000 in exchange for disclosing the location of the young woman’s body on the island of Aruba.
Aruba authorities have been frustrated in their efforts to prosecute van der Sloot because they have been unable to find her remains.
The federal officials said Wednesday that Holloway’s mother contacted authorities in Alabama, and the FBI set a sting operation in motion targeting van der Sloot. He has since been charged in Alabama with trying to extort money from the family.
Some $15,000 was wired to a bank account van der Sloot controlled, officials added.
Bo Dietl, a private investigator who has been working with John Kelly, an attorney for the Holloways, said van der Sloot received an additional $10,000 in cash. In April, shortly after van der Sloot’s father died, van der Sloot contacted Kelly and offered to explain how Holloway died in exchange for $250,000, Dietl said.
Dietl said that at a May 10 meeting in Aruba, Kelly offered van der Sloot $25,000 upfront, with the rest to be delivered once the body was found.
“He said he pushed Natalee Holloway, her head hit a rock,” Dietl said. He said van der Sloot said the body was buried “near a construction site near their house.” But the information proved to be false, said the private investigator.
“He’s lied so much, we don’t know,” said Dietl, who has been working with Kelly on the Holloway case.
Van der Sloot has told investigators he left Holloway on a beach, drunk. He has denied involvement in her disappearance.
In Birmingham, Ala., FBI spokesman Paul Daymond and a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office, Peggy Sanford, declined to comment on the latest disclosures about payments.
Van der Sloot was the last person seen with Holloway before she vanished during a high school graduation trip to the Dutch Caribbean island on May 30, 2005. He was arrested but has been released twice because of a lack of evidence.
He is being held in Peru in connection with the May 30 killing of 21-year-old business student Stephany Flores, the daughter of a Peruvian circus impresario and former race car driver. She was found beaten to death, her neck broken, in the 22-year-old Dutchman’s hotel room. Police said the two met playing poker at a casino.
Peru’s chief police spokesman, Col. Abel Gamarra, told The Associated Press on Monday that van der Sloot had confessed to killing Flores. However, a Dutch newspaper has quoted a family lawyer as saying the confession may have been coerced.