A 68-year-old woman was rescued in Hollywood on Monday afternoon after she was kidnapped from the West Los Angeles Veterans Affairs Medical Center, authorities said.
The FBI arrested Johnny Ray Gasca, 51, of the Bronx, New York, at the Dixie Hollywood Hotel on Hollywood Boulevard and freed the victim, who has dementia, according to a release from the U.S. Department of Justice. Gasca is facing one count of kidnapping, which carries a maximum sentence of life in federal prison, the release added.
The woman was taken from the VA facility, which is located near Westwood, at approximately 8:30 a.m. on Monday when she was trying to secure an appointment at the facility, according to the DOJ.
Despite being accompanied by a friend, the victim was abducted by Gasca, who physically forced her into a gold-colored pickup truck, authorities added. The victim’s friend was able to identify Gasca, who had a prior relationship with the victim, according to the DOJ.
The victim’s friend told the Los Angeles Times that she was “in shock” and wishes she did more to stop the alleged kidnapping.
“I mean, I did my best in terms of trying to memorize the license plate and make of the car. But it all happened so quickly,” said the victim’s friend, who asked not to be identified due to safety concerns.
The victim’s friend told federal agents that she “suspected Gasca may have taken some of [the victim’s] money from her bank and retirement accounts,” the release said.
The victim was missing multiple credit cards and $35,000 had been withdrawn from her retirement account, “followed by a number of Venmo, MoneyGram and PayPal transactions that the friend believed the victim” did not have the ability to conduct, the release added.
Gasca told agents that the victim is his girlfriend and that the victim withdrew $15,000 from a bank shortly after leaving the VA facility, according to the DOJ.
According to the affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint, the FBI is still looking for another person who allegedly drove the gold-colored truck.