Luis Armando Pena Soltren, Hijacker of 1968 Pan Am Flight, Gets 15-year sentence

The Long Arm of the Law...

A man who hijacked a plane to Cuba in 1968 was sentenced today to 15 years in prison by a federal judge who called the offense "a frightening crime."

Luis Armando Pena Soltren, 67, who is a U.S. citizen, spent four decades as a fugitive before voluntarily returning to the U.S. from Cuba in 2009. He pleaded guilty in March in U.S. District Court to hijacking Pan American Flight 281, which was bound for Puerto Rico from New York on Nov. 24, 1968.

Luis Armando Pena Soltren, was led away in federal court today in New York after a tearful exchange with his wife, and daughter.

Pena Soltren and at least two accomplices got on the plane at JFK Airport with guns and knives concealed in a diaper bag. The plane, with 103 passengers and crew on board, was diverted to Havana after Soltren forced his way into the cockpit. No one was hurt during the hijacking.

"This is a very serious offense. Sometimes it's important to have a strict sentence," U.S. District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein said during sentencing, the AP reported. "Hijacking is a frightening crime. I tried to imagine how I would feel if someone put a knife to my throat and a gun to my back and I wonder how many nightmares would follow.''

Speaking through an interpreter today in court, Pena Soltren apologized "to all those people who felt threatened during my desperate action,"

Pena Soltren was convicted of conspiracy to commit air piracy, conspiracy to interfere with flight crew members, conspiracy to kidnap and kidnapping.

Two others involved in the hijacking, Jose Rafael Rios Cruz and Miguel Castro, were arrested in the mid-'70s. Cruz was sentenced to 15 years in prison, and Castro received a 12-year prison sentence. ...

The Associated Press.
The Wall Street Journal
Luis Armando Pena Soltren, Hijacker of 1968 Pan Am Flight, Gets 15-Year Sentence