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FBI Foils Puerto Rican Terrorists’ Prison Escape Plot

July 4, 1986

CHICAGO (AP) _ A plot to land a helicopter stocked with machine guns and explosives in a prison yard to free a Puerto Rican terrorist leader was foiled when his supporters tried to buy explosives and a rocket from an undercover agent, authorities say.

Arrest warrants were issued Thursday for nine people accused in the plan to free Oscar Lopez, leader of the Puerto Rican terrorist group FALN, from federal prison in Leavenworth, Kan., authorities said.

Three were arrested here Thursday, and the FBI launched a search for the six others, who authorities said fled after finding bugging devices in a home or car in Southern California.

The FBI infiltrated the group in early 1985 with an undercover agent posing as a source for illegal weapons, Edward Hegarty, head of the Chicago FBI office, and U.S. Attorney Anton Valukas said at a news conference.

The group, which California authorities said included two members of the remnants of the radical Weather Underground, allegedly tried to buy a light anti-tank rocket and powerful plastic explosives from the agent.

Lopez, 43, is serving a 55-year prison sentence for seditious conspiracy, weapons and stolen car charges. He was convicted in 1981.

He was imprisoned at Leavenworth until three weeks ago, when he was moved to the federal penitentiary in Marion, FBI spokesman Bob Long said. He declined to say if Lopez was moved to foil the escape.

The FALN, a Spanish acronym for the Armed Forces of National Liberation, has been linked to more than 100 bombings or planned bombings since 1974 in its campaign to win independence for Puerto Rico. Prosecutors say six people have been killed and more than 100 wounded in FALN violence.

The three people arrested Thursday were identified as James Delgado, 33; Dora Garcia Lopez, 35; and Viola Salgado, 39, all of Chicago.

Each was charged with conspiracy to effect a prison escape and conspiracy to transport explosives across state lines, Hegarty said.

The six other suspects were identified as Claude Marks and Donna Jean Willmott, both of Van Nuys, Calif.; and Joan Sokolower, Robert McBride, Diana Block and Karen Shain, all of the Los Angeles area. They are all sought as material witnesses to a conspiracy.

Authorities alleged that Marks and Willmott, also charged with conspiracy, are members of the Weather Underground and of the Prairie Fire Organizing Committee, a radical offshoot of the Weather Underground.

Lopez masterminded the plan and began plotting his escape in September 1984, according to an affidavit filed in court by the FBI. The bureau learned of the alleged plans in February 1985 from an informant.

Lopez told the informant the plan involved flying a helicopter into Leavenworth’s recreation yard to pick up him and another inmate, the affidavit said. The chopper would fly the prisoners to a rendezvous three miles away and they would meet getaway cars supplied by Lopez’s Chicago associates.

The escape was originally planned for August 1985 but was postponed indefinitely because the group suspected federal authorities knew about it, the affidavit said.

Delgado met an undercover FBI agent in Dallas on March 23, 1985, and arranged to buy 40 pounds of C-4 explosive, it said. The FBI said Delgado works as a counselor at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago.

On May 4, 1985, Marks met two undercover FBI agents at a hotel in Baton Rouge, La., and allegedly paid them $5,000 for the C-4, but the explosive was phony, the affidavit said.

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