WASHINGTON - The FBI thought it was closing in on Joran van der Sloot in the notorious Natalee Holloway missing-teenager case, paying him at least $15,000 in a sting operation, federal officials said Wednesday.
But when the agency delayed his arrest to help build a murder case, he took the money and headed for Peru, where authorities say he now has confessed to killing a different young woman.
Federal law enforcement officials and a private investigator say the work on Holloway's disappearance was revived about six weeks ago when van der Sloot reached out to someone close to the Alabama teenager's mother and requested $250,000 in exchange for disclosing the location of the young woman's body on the island of Aruba.
Aruba authorities have been frustrated in their efforts to prosecute van der Sloot because they have been unable to find Holloway's remains.
The federal officials said Wednesday that Holloway's mother contacted authorities in Alabama, and the FBI set a sting operation in motion targeting van der Sloot. He has since been charged in Alabama with trying to extort money from the family.
About $15,000 was wired to a bank account van der Sloot controlled, officials added.
Bo Dietl, a private investigator, said van der Sloot received an additional $10,000 in cash. In April, shortly after van der Sloot's father died, van der Sloot contacted an attorney for the Holloway family, John Kelly, and offered to explain how Holloway died in exchange for $250,000, Dietl said.
Dietl said that at a May 10 meeting in Aruba, Kelly offered van der Sloot $25,000 up front, with the rest to be delivered once the body was found.
"He said he pushed Natalee Holloway, her head hit a rock," Dietl said. He said the father was told the body was buried "near a construction site near their house." But the information proved to be false, the private investigator said.
"He's lied so much, we don't know," said Dietl, who has been working with Kelly on the Holloway case.
Van der Sloot, 22, was the last person seen with Holloway before she vanished during a high school graduation trip to the Dutch Caribbean island on May 30, 2005. He was arrested but has been released twice because of a lack of evidence.
He is being held in Peru in connection with the May 30 killing of business student Stephany Flores, 21, the daughter of a Peruvian circus impresario and former race-car driver. She was found beaten to death, her neck broken, in van der Sloot's hotel room. Police said the two met playing poker at a casino.
Peru's chief police spokesman, Col. Abel Gamarra, said on Monday that van der Sloot confessed to killing Flores.