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Pan American Flight 281 Hijacker Arrives in New York to Face Charges

October 12, 2009  | 

Luis Armando Peña Soltren, who allegedly hijacked Pan American Flight 281 more than 40 years ago, voluntarily returned to New York from Havana, Cuba, to face charges, the FBI announced.

On Nov. 24, 1968, Peña Soltren allegedly hijacked the Puerto Rico-bound flight and diverted it to Cuba. The U.S. citizen lived in that country as a fugitive for 41 years.

Peña Soltren hijacked the plane with Jose Rafael Rios Cruz and Miguel Castro. Once the plan was airborne, the men used pistols and large knoves to force their way into the cabin and order the crew to land in Cuba, according to a federal indictment.


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 and were sentenced to 15 years and 12 years in prison, respectively.

Peña Soltren is charged in a four-count indictment with conspiracy to commit air piracy and kidnapping, interference with flight crew members, aircraft piracy, and kidnapping. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.

"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 U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

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