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Man Admits Hijacking PanAm Flight 281

(CN) - Former fugitive Luis Armando Pena Soltren pleaded guilty Wednesday to participating in the 1968 hijacking of Pan American flight 281. After nearly 41 years on the run, Pena Soltren, 67, surrendered to authorities last October.

He admitted to boarding the Puerto Rico-bound flight with two other men on Nov. 24, 1968. The men wielded pistols and knives, and forced the crew to land in Havana, Cuba.

Pena Soltren, a U.S. citizen, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit air piracy, to interfere with crew members and to kidnap; interference with crew members and kidnapping. He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.

"This guilty plea affirms that the pursuit of justice is tempered neither by distance nor the passage of time," said U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.

His co-conspirators, Jose Rafael Rios Cruz, 68, and Miguel Castro, 79, were apprehended in the mid-1970s. They pleaded guilty to threatening the lives of flight crew members.

Castro was sentenced to 12 years in prison, and Cruz got 15 years for their roles in the hijacking.

A fourth man, Alejandro Figuero, was charged in the hijacking but was acquitted in 1969 after a bench trial.

The case was handled by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Manhattan, the FBI, the Department of State and the DOJ's Office of International Affairs. Lead prosecutor is Assistant U.S. Attorney Ryan Poscablo.

Sentencing is scheduled for June 29.

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