WASHINGTON (AP) " The FBI thought it was closing in on Joran Van der Sloot in the 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 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 her 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.
Some $15,000 was wired to a bank account van der Sloot controlled, officials added.
Bo Dietl, a private investigator who has been working with an attorney for the Holloway, John Kelly, 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 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 upfront, 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 van der Sloot said the body was buried "near a construction site near their house." But the information proved to be false, said the private investigator.
"He's lied so much, we don't know," said Dietl, who has been working with Kelly on the Holloway case.
Van der Sloot has told investigators he left Holloway on a beach, drunk. He has denied involvement in her disappearance.
In Birmingham, Ala., FBI spokesman Paul Daymond and a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office, Peggy Sanford, declined to comment on the latest disclosures about payments.
Van der Sloot 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 21-year-old business student Stephany Flores, the daughter of a Peruvian circus impresario and former race car driver. She was found beaten to death, her neck broken, in the 22-year-old Dutchman's hotel room. Police said the two met playing poker at a casino.
Peru's chief police spokesman, Col. Abel Gamarra, told The Associated Press on Monday that van der Sloot had confessed to killing Flores. However, a Dutch newspaper has quoted a family lawyer as saying the confession may have been coerced.
For five years, van der Sloot has remained the key suspect in Aruba for the disappearance of Holloway, an 18-year-old from Alabama.
Van der Sloot, who was a fixture on true crime shows and in tabloids after Holloway's disappearance, crossed into Chile on Monday, roughly a day after leaving the Lima hotel. The day of his arrest in Chile, he was charged in the United States with trying to extort $250,000 from Holloway's family.
The federal criminal complaint in that case, filed in Birmingham, Ala., alleged an arrangement to pay the money for disclosing the location of Holloway's body. According to a sworn statement, van der Sloot got a partial payment of $15,000 wired to a Netherlands bank soon after, but the complaint does not say where the money came from.
The U.S. government's involvement in the payment to van der Sloot was first reported by the New York Post. Law enforcement officials spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the murder investigation in Aruba is still under way.
Reeves reported from Birmingham, Ala. AP writers Mike Melia in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Kendal Weaver in Montgomery, Ala., contributed to this report.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.