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Joran van der Sloot Pleads Not Guilty to Wire Fraud, Extortion Charges after U.S. Extradition

Joran van der Sloot is accused of extorting Natalee Holloway’s family for $250,000 in exchange for the location of the missing Alabama woman’s remains following her 2005 disappearance.

By Dorian Geiger
How Do Investigators Handle Adult Missing Person Cases?

Joran van der Sloot, the primary suspect in the disappearance of Natalee Holloway, has pleaded not guilty to wire fraud charges following his extradition to the United States. 

Van der Sloot appeared in federal court on Friday and pleaded not guilty to a series of charges accusing him of extorting hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Holloway’s family in the aftermath of her 2005 disappearance.

Van der Sloot, who is separately serving a 28-year sentence in Peru for the murder of 21-year-old business student Stephany Flores, arrived in Birmingham on Thursday, per the Associated Press.

Van der Sloot’s U.S. court appearance followed a failed eleventh hour bid to fight his extradition.

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“We always say that justice delayed is justice denied, and there’s a certain simple truth to that,” said Joyce Vance, an Alabama federal prosecutor who had worked on the case when van der Sloot was originally charged. “But this case makes me think sometimes justice delayed is actually worth it. It’s not optimal. It’s not what anybody would have wanted at the outset, but justice delayed is better than justice never delivered.”

Dutch national Joran Van der Sloot during his preliminary hearing in court in the Lurigancho prison in Lima.

Fox News reported that van der Sloot was smiling at his arraignment. Footage of his extradition released by Peruvian officials showed van der Sloot being sandwiched by a multitude of law enforcement agencies from around the world, including Peruvian officers, as well as Interpol and FBI agents. 

Holloway disappeared in 2005 while traveling with friends during a vacation on the Caribbean island of Aruba. She was 18. At the time, Holloway had last been seen leaving a bar with van der Sloot, who was then an international student at a school on the island. 

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Van der Sloot was detained and interviewed by authorities following Holloway’s disappearance. He was never charged, primarily due to a lack of evidence in the case.

Holloway’s body has never been recovered. An Alabama judge previously declared Holloway dead.

According to federal prosecutors, van der Sloot contacted Holloway’s mother, Beth Holloway in 2010 and demanded $250,000 in exchange for information relating to the location of the missing 18-year-old’s remains. He was indicted by an Alabama grand jury that year on a single count of wire fraud and extortion. 

Natalee Holloway's Missing Persons Poster

Beth Holloway, Natalee's mother, told the Associated Press she was “overcome with mixed emotions” in regards to van der Sloot’s upcoming trial. 

“As a mother who has tirelessly pursued justice for the abduction and murder of my precious daughter, I stand before you today with a heart both heavy with sorrow and yet lifted by a glimmer of hope,” Beth Holloway said in a statement. “For 18 years, I have lived with the unbearable pain of Natalee’s loss. Each day has been filled with unanswered questions and a longing for justice that has eluded us at every turn. But today ... I am hopeful that some small semblance of justice may finally be realized.”

A 2001 treaty agreement between Peru and the U.S. allowed for van der Sloot’s temporary extradition to the U.S. Van der Sloot is expected to remain in the U.S. until the conclusion of his trial, or following an appeals process, if there is one, according to Peruvian government documents cited by the Associated Press. He’ll then be returned to the custody of Peru.