Three men were arrested for allegedly kidnapping a SoCal teenager and holding him for ransom on Friday.
The suspects were identified as Santa Maria residents:
-Fidel Jesús Patino Jaimes, 22
-Jair Tomás Ramos Domínguez, 26
-Ezequiel Felix López, 27
The victim was identified as a 17-year-old boy from San Bernardino County, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
On the morning of Sept. 18, the three suspects allegedly caused a car crash involving the teen boy. As the boy exited his vehicle, the men grabbed him and forced him into their SUV, court documents said.
Later that afternoon, the boy’s mother received a call from a Mexico-based phone number. The caller demanded she hand over $500,000 to a location in Nogales, Mexico in exchange for the boy. They told her the boy’s father was to blame for the abduction, officials said.
Shortly after, a WhatsApp video was sent to the mother’s cell phone showing the kidnapped boy in the backseat of the suspects’ SUV. He began “reading from a script, saying that the abduction was his father’s fault for an incident that occurred in New York, and saying you know what you stole,” court documents said.
Several days later, the victim’s mother continued to receive calls from various Mexico-based phone numbers. In each call, a person would demand payment while threatening to cut off the boy’s body parts if the money wasn’t received.
The ransom went unpaid and was later decreased to $100,000, the victim said.
Authorities eventually tracked down the suspects to a motel in Santa Maria, a city located in Santa Barbara County. Security footage of the kidnapping captured on doorbell cameras helped investigators identify the suspects’ vehicle.
While searching the motel room, all three men were located along with a firearm. The teen boy was found lying in a corner of the room.
All three suspects were arrested and charged with kidnapping, officials said. If convicted, the felony carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
Their first court appearances are scheduled for Sept. 25 in the U.S. District Court in downtown L.A.
“Few things can be as terrorizing to a parent as having your child kidnapped and held for ransom under threat of physical harm,” said U.S. Attorney Martin Estrada. “Together with the FBI and our local law enforcement partners, we have acted swiftly to rescue the victim and bring the abductors to justice. I commend the agents and officers for their heroic efforts to free the victim and prevent a devastating tragedy from occurring.”