Panamanian murderer caught in D.C., lived off federal subsidies
By: Freeman Klopott
Examiner Staff Writer
March 18, 2010
A Panamanian murderer who escaped a prison in the Central American country has been captured in the District, where authorities say he used a fake Social Security card to obtain federally subsidized housing and cruised around town in three luxury cars.
The FBI was led to 36-year-old Juan Barrera by an anonymous caller who claimed Barrera was planning to fire a rocket launcher at a Metro train, according to an affidavit recently filed in Greenbelt's federal court.
The tip began an around-the-clock investigation, the affidavit said. The FBI staked out Barrera's third-floor apartment at 1405 Montana Ave., NE, for two days in late January before detaining him. Authorities said in court documents that Barrera did not own a rocket launcher and had no plans to attack Metro.
Barrera was then immediately transferred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody, spokeswomen from both agencies confirmed. The convicted murderer has been wanted on a warrant from Panama since escaping from La Joya prison in early 2008, news reports and Interpol said. Details regarding Barrera's murder conviction were not readily available, an ICE spokeswoman said. English language media organizations in Panama contacted by The Examiner found little information through what they described as Panama's "broken" court system.
Meanwhile, the FBI is investigating Barrera for identity fraud, court documents said.
Federal agents have executed search warrants on Barrera's apartment and his Hyattsville Bank of America safety deposit box, an FBI spokeswoman confirmed.
The returned warrants show that Barrera kept $21,200 in cash at the bank along with a Panamanian birth certificate issued for Barrera's alias, Antonio Armando Acuna. They also found a fake Social Security card in that name and a D.C. driver's license.
Barrera reportedly told authorities he used the bogus Social Security card to get the driver's license and secure his U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development subsidized apartment, court documents said. A property manager for Brookland Manor Apartments told authorities Barrera paid his rent for one year in advance.
Authorities also found that Barrera had three cars registered to his alias in the District: a 1998 Lexus, a 2003 Infiniti and a 2008 Acura.
Barrera reportedly told authorities he entered the United States by sneaking in through Mexico, the affidavit said.