Ishmael Muslim Ali (formerly LaBeet) is one of the top five most American wanted fugitives in Cuba.
There are approximately 70 American fugitives believed to be living in Cuba, granted political asylum by the Cuban authorities. Click above to meet five of them who, along with our Skyjacker, Ishmael Muslim Ali (formerly LaBeet) have gained the most notoriety.
Likely the most infamous of all American fugitives living freely in Cuba, Shakur (née Joanne Chesimard), who was a member of the Black Liberation Army, was convicted in 1977 of the murder of New Jersey state trooper Werner Foerster. She has consistently maintained her innocence and many have suggested she received an unfair trial. Sentenced to life in prison, she escaped in 1979 with the assistance of BLA members. After several years on the lam, Shakur received asylum in Cuba in 1984. On May 2, 2013, Shakur became the first woman to be named to the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorist List, with a $2 million bounty for information leading to her return. She is believed to be living in Havana, where she helped The Skyjacker’s Tale’s Ali with his own asylum application with the Cuban authorities, and is the namesake and godmother of Ali’s daughter, Assata. Her exact whereabouts, however, are not known – she remains in hiding from US authorities and bounty hunters looking to claim the reward for bringing her back to America. Shakur is considered a Black cultural icon, the godmother and step-aunt of legendary American rapper Tupac Shakur. She has been singled out by Chris Christie and now POTUS Donald Trump, who have both demanded her return to the US as a condition of ending the embargo with Cuba.
Charlie Hill has been living in exile in Cuba for more than 45 years. After refusing combat and deserting his unit in Vietnam, Hill returned to the US to join a black separatist movement in the south, called the Republic of New Afrika. He was driving across New Mexico with 2 other New Afrika members, Ralph Goodwin and Michael Finney, when a standoff occurred between the men and New Mexico police officer Robert Rosenbloom, who was lethally shot. After several weeks on the lam, the men commandeered a tow truck at gunpoint and hijacked a plane from Albuquerque International Airport to Cuba. Hill is the last survivor of the trio, and despite having made a life for himself in Cuba, dreams of returning to the US and has seriously considered surrendering.
Nehanda Abiodun, born Cheri Laverne Dalton in New York City, was granted asylum in Cuba in the early 1990s, after being accused of aiding and abetting Assata Shakur’s escape from prison in 1979, and of a series of robberies in the early 1980s. Abiodun was active in the Black independence movement and a member of the Republic of New Afrika. Unlike some of her fellow US fugitives, Nehanda Abiodun is an active and visible presence in the Cuban cultural scene, mentoring young Cuban rappers. She is considered to be one of the originators of the Cuban hip hop movement.
William Morales is a former leader and bombmaker for a radical Puerto Rican liberation group known as the Armed Forces of National Liberation, or F.A.L.N. He was believed to be the chief bombmaker for FALN, implicated in more than 50 bombings in the US between 1974 and 1978. After being convicted for possession and transportation of explosives in 1979 in the US, and sentenced to 99 years in prison, he escaped from the Bellevue Hospital in New York City. Morales had been at Bellevue being fitted for artificial hands. Morales disfigured his face and lost most of his hands when a bomb he was making detonated accidentally. The accident is what led to his arrest. Escaping Bellevue, Morales fled to Mexico, where he was captured by authorities. In 1988, much to the consternation of those pursuing him in the US, Morales was released to go to Cuba. Morales is on the FBI’s list of Most Wanted domestic terrorists, with a reward of $100,000 for information leading to his arrest. He was immortalized in David Wojnarowicz’s 1984 painting William Morales, Patron Saint of Prison Breaks, which features in the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art collection. Morales is believed to be living in Havana, where he has settled and started a family.
Gerena, an American from New York City, gained notoriety for the armed robbery of a Wells Fargo armored car depot in Connecticut. The robbery netted more than $7 million, making it, at the time, the largest cash heist in US history. Gerena was a member of Los Macheteros, a guerilla group seeking Puerto Rican independence from the US. The crime was committed on September 12, 1983, a day coinciding with the birth date of prominent Puerto Rican Nationalist Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos. Following the crime, Gerena arrived in Cuba via Mexico City. He was granted political asylum by the Cuban authorities and is still believed to be living there. Gerena was placed on the FBI’s Top 10 Most Wanted list in 1984 and, despite being removed from the list in December 2016, has the distinction of being the person who has been on the list for the longest period of time.
The hijacking came a dozen years after Ali and four others were convicted of murdering eight people on a Rockefeller-owned golf course on St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, dubbed the Fountain Valley Massacre.
The manhunt that followed remains the largest in the history of St Croix.
Meral Smith, 22 (Malik S. El-Amin)
Beaumont Gereau, 23 (Hanif Bey)
Ishmael La Beet, (Ismail Muslim Ali)
Raphael Joseph, 20
Warren Emmanuel Ballentine, (Abdullah Aziz), 23
Police sweep finds Smith and Joseph. Wanted posters circulated for Ballentine, Gereau, LaBeet; $5000 reward for information.
Prior to Fountain Valley, the island was characterized by some as a crime-free paradise. But to others, the crime did not happen in a vacuum.
The U.S. Virgin Islands are “an organized, unincorporated U.S. territory.” Although U.S. citizens, native Islanders residing in USVI are ineligible to vote for the U.S. president unless they become residents of mainland U.S. Their delegates to U.S. Congress cannot participate in general votes. The territory still does not have its own constitution, its most recent proposed constitution (2009) having been contested by the U.S. Justice Dept., and rejected by Congress. Both these matters are ongoing issues for Islanders.
Discovered by Columbus in 1493, the Virgin Islands had a native population going back 3,000 years. Colonized and fought over for centuries by the Dutch, Danes and French and English, who enslaved the native population and made the islands a center of the slave trade, the islands were the scene of frequent slave revolts, up to and including the sale by the Danes to the U.S., for $25 million, in 1916. The USVI were designated a U.S. territory, with its present limited citizenship and voting rights, in 1954.