Peru okays US extradition of convicted poker killer Joran van der Sloot

joran van der sloot
Haley Hintze Author Photo
Haley Hintze
Posted on: May 12, 2023 10:36 PDT

Dutch national Joran van der Sloot, the primary suspect in the 2005 disappearance in Aruba of Natalee Holloway, may soon be returned to the US to face wire fraud and extortion charges connected to the still-open Holloway case.

Van der Sloot, now 35, is currently serving a 28-year sentence in a Peruvian prison for the 2010 murder of Stephany Flores, a 21-year-old Peruvian poker player and college student. Flores met van der Sloot at a poker table at the Atlantic City Casino in Lima, Peru. Later that night, May 30, 2010, she accompanied van der Sloot to his room at the nearby Hotel TAC to play online poker.

While playing online, according to one of van der Sloot's later confessions, a text message popped up on van der Sloot's computer. The message threatened van der Sloot and was connected to Holloway's still-unsolved disappearance, which had occurred exactly five years to the day earlier. Flores presumably became aware of van der Sloot's full identity at that point. The two fought, and van der Sloot either struck Flores with a tennis racket or threw her into the wall or a headboard, fracturing her skull and breaking her neck. He then strangled the semi-conscious and bleeding Flores.

Van der Sloot fled Lima almost immediately, driving south and crossing the border into Chile, where he was captured the following day while wearing clothes still stained with Flores's blood. Van der Sloot was quickly returned to Peru, where he was found guilty of murder.

Described himself as a poker pro

Van der Sloot's poker background brought him to Lima. Though he was from a wealthy family, his notoriety from the Holloway disappearance forced him to Thailand, where he initially planned to enter college but instead purchased a small restaurant while playing online poker on numerous sites.

Only a portion of van der Sloot's online poker accounts have ever been identified. There's no indication that he was a winning player, despite his later claims of being a poker pro. Van der Sloot also dabbled in live poker events, and that's what brought him to Peru. Two weeks before Flores's murder, he entered Peru from Colombia with plans to play in some events in the 2010 Latin American Poker Tour series, which was also being held at the Atlantic City Casino in Lima.

Unsuccessful in whatever events he entered -- van der Sloot never recorded a cash in a live poker tourney of significance -- he was low on funds at the time of Flores's murder. That raised the possibility that robbery was a contributing motive in her death.

Extortion of Holloway's mother at root of extradition request

The unsolved Holloway disappearance resurfaces in Peru's recent granting of the US's extradition request, which has been open for over a decade. Within weeks of van der Sloot's arrest in Peru for Flores's murder, he was indicted by a grand jury in Holloway's home state of Alabama.

According to a DOJ statement at the time, van der Sloot had contacted Holloway's mother, Beth, promising to reveal the location of Holloway's remains in exchange for $250,000, $25,000 of which was to be paid in advance. Beth Holloway paid that $25,000, though the information van der Sloot provided turned out to be false.

The indictment has remained open since 2010 despite only recently being approved by the Peruvian authorities. Van der Sloot's lawyer has already announced that he will seek to block the extradition attempt.