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Why Joran van der Sloot’s Peruvian prison stint for murder is taking a back seat to blockbuster US case linked to Natalee Holloway’s disappearance

Natalee Holloway, Joran van der Sloot

A missing poster for Natalee Holloway, an Alabama high school graduate who disappeared while on a graduation trip to Aruba in May 2005, is pictured (L) on Palm Beach, in front of her hotel in Aruba, in this June 10, 2005 file photo (AP Photo/Leslie Mazoch); (R) Joran van der Sloot pictured on Jan. 13, 2012, when he was sentenced to 28 years for the 2010 murder of Stephany Flores, a 21-year-old woman he met at a casino in Peru. (AP Photo/Karel Navarro)

Convicted murderer Joran Andreas Petrus van der Sloot, now 35, will see his 28-year Peruvian prison sentence in the death of Stephany Flores interrupted in order to face extradition to the United States for what reports say is a state-approved “temporary surrender” on extortion and wire fraud charges connected to the disappearance of Natalee Holloway.

Van der Sloot still has 15 years left to serve on his sentence in Peru, so why extradite him to the United States now? Existing decade-old federal charges for alleged crimes against Natalee Holloway’s mother Beth Holloway (a.k.a., Beth Holloway Twitty) are serious enough to potentially put van der Sloot behind bars in the U.S. for decades more.


The Dutch national is widely known as the person long suspected but never charged with murdering Natalee Holloway in Aruba between May 29 and May 30, 2005, when the 18-year-old from Alabama vanished without a trace while visiting the island with high school classmates on a graduation trip. Holloway, an aspiring pre-med student who had earned a full scholarship at the University of Alabama before her disappearance, was declared legally dead in 2012 — nearly seven full years after she was last seen alive leaving Carlos’n Charlie’s, a restaurant and nightclub in Oranjestad, Aruba, with van der Sloot and two others.

Two years before a judge declared Holloway dead, however, van der Sloot strangled and killed another woman: 21-year-old student Stephany Flores, whom he met while participating in a poker tournament at a casino in Lima, Peru, on May 30, 2010 — five years to the day Holloway disappeared.

Van der Sloot went on to plead guilty to murder in 2012, acknowledging that he also robbed the victim of hundreds of dollars worth of currency to fund his escape to Chile, where he was arrested mere days after the fact. At the time, van der Sloot’s defense lawyer Jose Luis Jimenez reportedly said his client was stressed out on the day of the murder, as the five-year anniversary of Holloway’s disappearance and the fallout from it weighed heavily on him.

“He was pointed at and persecuted. The world had been against him for five years before this case, for a murder he said he never committed and for which there is no evidence whatsoever,” the lawyer said, according to CNN. Homicide investigators in Peru reportedly believed that van der Sloot suffocated Flores to death with his shirt after realizing she read something about the Holloway case on a computer in his hotel room.

Van der Sloot has been incarcerated ever since, and the earliest he would otherwise be released from prison in Peru is reportedly June 10, 2038.

That brings us to today, at the intersection of the Flores case and federal wire fraud and extortion charges against van der Sloot in Northern Alabama dating all the way back to June 2010.

How the Flores murder and US federal fraud/extortion case connect

When charges came down in the U.S. against van der Sloot in June 2010, an FBI affidavit alleged that van der Sloot took advantage of the desperation and grief Natalee Holloway’s family felt by shaking them down for money under a false promise to their lawyer John Q. Kelly —  the “cooperating witness” referred to in the complaint. The alleged promise? That van der Sloot would lead Natalee’s family to their loved one’s remains.

“In the years following Natalee’s disappearance, extensive searches have been conducted on the island of Aruba and in the surrounding waters, with no success. Over time, monetary rewards of up to $1 million have been offered for Natalee’s safe return. In addition, rewards of up to $250,000 have been offered for information leading to the return of her remains,” the complaint noted. “On or about March 29, 2010, van der Sloot contacted the cooperating witness via email, using the email address, [redacted]. During a series of emails that followed, van der Sloot offered to take the cooperating witness to the location of Natalee Holloway’s body, advise the cooperating witness as to the circumstances of her death, and identify those involved in her death and disappearance in return for a payment of $250,000.”

“Van der Sloot indicated to the cooperating witness that unless Mrs. Twitty paid the money demanded he would not tell where the remains of her daughter were hidden, nor provide any information regarding the circumstances of her death. During a subsequent series of emails, van der Sloot agreed to modify the terms of his offer. For an initial payment of $25,000, he would take the cooperating witness to the location of Natalee’s body. Upon recovery of the body and confirmation that it was, in fact, the remains of Natalee Holloway, van der Sloot would be paid an additional $225,000 by Mrs. Twitty. Van der Sloot later emailed his bank account information to the cooperating witness, so that the money could be deposited into his bank account by wire transfer. The information sent by van der Sloot revealed that his account is located at the SNS Bank, located in the Netherlands. While negotiating this deal via email, van der Sloot insisted that a written contract between him and Mrs. Twitty be prepared by the cooperating witness. The contract was to set out the terms of their agreement and be signed by both parties. The cooperating witness drew up the agreement and sent it by electronic facsimile (FAX) from his office in New York to Mrs. Twitty in Birmingham, Alabama. Mrs. Twitty signed the agreement and FAXed it back to the cooperating witness.”

Van der Sloot allegedly went on to use $25,000 paid out by the FBI in its sting operation to fund his travel to Peru, where he murdered Flores.

A May 10, 2010, recorded meeting in Aruba between attorney Kelly and van der Sloot resulted in the lawyer handing Van der Sloot $10,000 in cash upfront to immediately be followed by a Beth Holloway wire transfer of $15,000 more. Van der Sloot told an elaborate story about his now-deceased father, the Aruban judge and lawyer Paul van der Sloot, helping cover up the crime. But according to the complaint, van der Sloot admitted to Kelly in a May 17, 2010, email that he lied about the location of Natalee Holloway’s remains and provided “worthless” information. From the complaint:

They drove to a house [….] Once there, van der Sloot pointed to the residence and said that Natalee Holloway’s body would be found in the foundation of the house. The cooperating witness wanted to be certain which house van der Sloot was identifying so he took photographs of the house. Van der Sloot then told the cooperating witness that van der Sloot’s father, Paulus van der Sloot, had disposed of Natalee’s body by burying her remains in the gravel under the foundation of the single story house. Van der Sloot went on to admit that he had been with Natalee on the night of May 29/30, 2005, and that he had thrown her to the ground after she had attempted to stop him from leaving her. Van der Sloot claimed that when she fell down, she hit her head on a rock and died as a result of the impact. Van der Sloot told the cooperating witness that he hid Natalee’s body and then returned home and told his father what had happened. According to van der Sloot, his father accompanied him to the location where van der Sloot had secreted Natalee’s body. Van der Sloot returned to the car while his father further concealed the body. Van der Sloot said that a few days later, his father buried Natalee’s body under the house van der Sloot had shown the cooperating witness. Van der Sloot added that he had not actually seen his father inter the remains, but was told and shown by his father where the body was buried.

A review by Aruban law enforcement officials of a building permit for [redacted], the residence indicated by van der Sloot, revealed that there was no foundation or structure on that parcel of land at the time of Natalee Holloway’s disappearance. The document indicates that a permit was requested on 5/23/2005, that a permit was approved on 5/26/2005, that a site inspection was conducted on 6/15/2005, and that the permit was not issued until 10/18/2010. An interview with the contractor who built the house confirms that the house identified by van der Sloot was not under construction at the time of Natalee Holloway’s disappearance. Further, investigation discovered aerial photographs which were taken on May 29, 2005 and June 5, 2005, that show no construction was underway at the location.

Van der Sloot’s father was arrested in connection with the case in 2005, but he was released after questioning and a determination that there was “no sufficient suspicion for guilt.”

Famous Dutch crime reporter Peter de Vries, renowned for his coverage of the Holloway case among many others, remarked after interviewing Paul van der Sloot, however, that it seemed he knew more about Holloway’s disappearance than he was saying.

“My intuition as a researcher told me that Mr. Van der Sloot knew more about it, but wanted to protect his son, which is natural. His attitude struck me as tense, for instance when I referred to Natalee being dead,” de Vries said. His response was, ‘Who says she’s dead? There is no evidence.'”

Joran’s father died of a heart attack while playing tennis in February 2010; de Vries was murdered in 2021.

The charges against Joran van der Sloot

Because van der Sloot’s alleged scheme involved defrauding a bank, the wire fraud offense falls under 18 U.S.C. § 1344, which makes it a federal crime to “knowingly” defraud a financial institution or “obtain any of the moneys, funds, credits, assets, securities, or other property owned by, or under the custody or control of, a financial institution, by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises.”

That charge is punishable upon conviction by up to a $1,000,000 fine and 30 years in prison.

The additionally charged extortion offense under 18 U.S.C. § 1951(a) is itself punishable by up to two decades of prison time:

(a) Whoever in any way or degree obstructs, delays, or affects commerce or the movement of any article or commodity in commerce, by robbery or extortion or attempts or conspires so to do, or commits or threatens physical violence to any person or property in furtherance of a plan or purpose to do anything in violation of this section shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both.

Aside from the complaint and an indictment in June 2010, the federal docket in the case has barely had any entries over the years.

In 2014, a woman who said she was van der Sloot’s wife filed a handwritten motion to dismiss the indictment, arguing “Unless a lie on his part can be proved, there is not an act of extortion or wire fraud.” The motion was faxed to then-U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama Joyce White Vance, who is now a legal commentator on MSNBC. Days later, the motion was stricken by a judge because the woman was “not an attorney or member of the Bar of this court,” nor “authorized to file matters in behalf of the defendant.”

The most recent docket activity from Thursday shows that Assistant United States Attorneys Lloyd C. Peeples and Catherine L. Crosby are now handling the case.

How Natalee Holloway’s family responded

In a reported statement Wednesday, Beth Holloway expressed “sincere gratitude” to family attorneys, Stephany Flores’ family, and the Peruvian government for placing the man she said “abducted and murdered” her daughter nearly 18 years ago in renewed legal jeopardy.

“In May 2005 my 18-year-old daughter Natalee Holloway left Birmingham for Aruba to attend her high school graduation trip and was never seen again,” Holloway reportedly said. “She was abducted and murdered there. Now almost exactly eighteen years later, her perpetrator, Joran van der Sloot, has been extradited to Birmingham to answer for his crimes. While I will have much more to say later about what is happening, for now I want to express my sincere gratitude to President Dina Boluarte, the President of Peru, the warm people of Peru, the family of Stephany Flores, the FBI in Miami, Florida and in Birmingham, Alabama, the U.S. Attorney’s office in Birmingham, the U.S. Embassy in Peru and the Peruvian Embassy in the U.S., my longtime attorney John Q. Kelly who has worked tirelessly on this case, and George Seymore and Marc Wachtenheim of Patriot Strategies.”

What Joran van der Sloot has said about the extortion case and what his defense plans to do about extradition

In 2010, Joran Van der Sloot reportedly confessed to the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf that he extorted Holloway’s family to “get back at” them.

“I wanted to get back at Natalee’s family — her parents have been making my life tough for five years,” van der Sloot reportedly said. “When they offered to pay for the girl’s location, I thought: ‘Why not?'”

Maximo Altez, a van der Sloot’s attorney in Peru, reportedly told The Associated Press that he plans to “challenge” and “oppose” his client’s extradition to the United States “since he has the right to a defense.”

The Peruvian government previously agreed in 2014 to extradite van der Sloot to the U.S. — after he finished serving his murder sentence in 2038.

The decision to reverse course on that appears to be motivated by a desire to bring closure to Holloway’s family.

“We hope that this action will enable a process that will help to bring peace to Mrs. Holloway and to her family, who are grieving in the same way that the Flores family in Peru is grieving for the loss of their daughter, Stephany,” Peru’s ambassador to the U.S. Gustavo Meza-Cuadra reportedly told CBS News.

The Peruvian attorney general’s office reportedly confirmed that the plan is for van der Sloot to be hauled back to prison “immediately following the proceedings” in America.

Law&Crime reached out to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Alabama to inquire about the status of van der Sloot’s extradition.

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Matt Naham is the Senior A.M. Editor of Law&Crime.