The other was Suarez. Attorney Bergenn said he was able to impeach the government witnesses and show that while Suarez was involved in the toy giveaway, there was no evidence linking him to the robbery, even though he knew some of the participants. In his closing argument, Bergenn compared the leadership of Los Macheteros to the Founding Fathers of the United States, who were "seeking independence from oppressive rulers."
Bergenn's client was acquitted. "I learned from that case that forensic evidence is everything," Bergenn said. "When a case is built on human testimony, it's vulnerable."
At the time, Richard Reeve was a federal public defender in Connecticut who was appointed to try to suppress surveillance audio recordings that were collected by the FBI from Ojeda Rios. Reeve was partially successful, though Rios never went to trial. He was later killed by authorities in Puerto Rico.
Reeve said his clients truly believed they were fighting for a just cause. "A lot has changed since then, but this is still a hotly debated political and legal issue," Reeve said. "There has been no change in that debate since 1985. And today, Puerto Rico remains a colony."
Gonzalez sank into obscurity after the robbery, keeping a low profile in a small village near his hometown in Puerto Rico, where he lived under an assumed name. In 2005, his brother Avelino was arrested for his role in the robbery and sentenced to seven years in prison. A third brother, Orlando, was also convicted.
Over the years, Los Macheteros faded from the news, replaced by anti-American groups from another part of the globe. In 1999, President Bill Clinton granted clemency to Palmer and three other convicted Los Macheteros members. Palmer was released from prison in 2004.
But, even as case files were transferred to microfilm and then to computer files, and even as many FBI agents who originally worked on the case retired or died of old age, the pursuit of Gonzalez was never abandoned.
Among the evidence that eventually led to his arrest were items recovered from the home where he lived at the time of the robbery. In 1985, when the FBI stormed the small house in Puerto Rico, the first thing agents seized was a beat-up typewriter.
Confirming their suspicions that Gonzalez was in charge of the group's communications, FBI agents said they recovered forensic evidence from the typewriter ribbon linking it to dozens of Los Macheteros documents. One such document was a letter sent to media outlets that claimed credit for the Wells Fargo robbery. The letter referred to "the recuperation of approximately seven million dollars to the revolutionary movement" and praised the "outstanding participation of comrade Victor Gerona," the FBI said.
In 2011, Gonzalez was finally tracked down and arrested. At first, he denied involvement in the robbery. But when a plea deal was worked out that spared him from life in prison, he acknowledged that he was a member of the committee that planned the heist.