Inside Story: The Alleged Extortion of Natalee Holloway's Family

Inside Story: The Alleged Extortion of Natalee Holloway's Family
Natalee Holloway and Joran van der Sloot
AP; Peter Dejong/AP

updated 06/11/2010 AT 02:55 PM EDT

originally published 06/11/2010 AT 01:55 PM EDT

It was last March when Joran van der Sloot approached an attorney for Natalee Holloway's mother offering information that promised to bring some sense of closure to the emotionally battered family.

He said he could reveal the location of Natalee's remains – for a price.

An affidavit unsealed Thursday in a federal case in Alabama offers new details about an extortion attempt van der Sloot allegedly carried out against Natalee’s mom, Beth Holloway, whose teen daughter disappeared five years ago in Aruba.

The document was released amid questions about the FBI's role in the case – and whether a woman's murder could have been prevented.





Federal agents were informed about the alleged extortion plot and took part in a sting against van der Sloot but didn't arrest the Dutch national before he traveled from Aruba to Peru, where he has been charged with the murder of Stephany Flores Ramirez, 21.

It was only after his murder arrest that he was charged with federal extortion and wire fraud charges in the alleged plot against Holloway's family.

Money for Information

According to the affidavit, van der Sloot first emailed Beth Holloway's representative, identified as New York attorney John Q. Kelly, in late March. Through a series of emails, the two negotiated a $250,00 payout for van der Sloot to provide information about Natalee’s death and the whereabouts of her remains, the new document shows.

But before meeting with van der Sloot, Kelly contacted the FBI, which coordinated with Aruban law enforcement to record the exchange with van der Sloot for prosecution.

Based on a written agreement negotiated between Kelly and van der Sloot – and which van der Sloot insisted that Beth Holloway must sign – Holloway wired $10,000 from her Alabama bank account to Kelly, who turned over the cash to van der Sloot in a May 10 meeting in an Aruban hotel room.

Right away, Kelly called Holloway, who wired another $15,000 – the balance of the agreed-upon down payment – from her bank to van der Sloot’s bank in the Netherlands.

Bogus Information?

Van der Sloot then provided what he claimed was the information that had been bought: Natalee had hit her head on a rock and died after he threw her to the ground during a confrontation "after she had attempted to stop him from leaving her," the document states.

Van der Sloot led Kelly to a house where, according to the affidavit, he said his father, Paulus van der Sloot, "disposed of Natalee's body by burying her remains in the gravel under the foundation of the single story home." (Paulus van der Sloot was an attorney who died in February.)



Van der Sloot believed he would receive the remainder of the $250,000 once Natalee's remains were located and verified, according to the signed agreement with Kelly.

But there was a major problem: His story proved false.

When a review of building permits revealed that the residence did not exist at the time Natalee disappeared, van der Sloot admitted to Kelly in a May 17 email that he had "lied about the location."

The FBI's Role

Although Kelly and Holloway thought van der Sloot's arrest was imminent after he accepted the payoff and it was recorded, the FBI and U.S. Attorney's Office in Birmingham, Ala., said in a statement that its case "was not sufficiently developed to bring charges prior to the time van der Sloot left Aruba."

Three days after the May 10 meeting, van der Sloot – presumably with that cash from the extortion sting in hand – flew from Aruba to Colombia, and then entered Peru on May 14.

Though authorities said they didn’t have enough evidence to charge him before he left Aruba, federal charges were brought against van der Sloot on June 3 – the same day he was arrested in Chile for the Flores murder.

For more on this story, including exclusive interviews with relatives of Holloway and Flores – and excerpts from van der Sloot’s writings to a former girlfriend – pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday

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