Officials detained Otto Warmbier on Jan. 2 as he tried boarding a plane for the United States

By Chris Harris
Updated March 16, 2016 03:50 PM

A 21-year-old University of Virginia student has been sentenced to 15 years hard labor for crimes he allegedly committed against the state of North Korea, according to multiple reports.

North Korean officials detained Ohio native Otto Warmbier on Jan. 2 as he tried boarding a plane for the United States. During a press conference last month, Warmbier wept as he begged for the forgiveness of North Korea’s people, admitting on camera he had stolen a banner from his hotel.

The banner boasted a political slogan, according to the Associated Press.

Reading from a prepared statement, Warmbier told reporters at last month’s press event he should never “have allowed myself to be lured by the United States administration to commit a crime in this country.”

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He added: “I wish that the United States administration never manipulate people like myself in the future to commit crimes against foreign countries. I entirely beg you, the people and government of the DPRK, for your forgiveness. Please! I made the worst mistake of my life!”

Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson told The New York Times he met with North Korean diplomats Tuesday in an effort to lobby for Warmbier’s freedom.

Calls to Warmbier’s relatives in Ohio were not returned Wednesday, and efforts to reach North Korean diplomats was also unsuccessful.