Thursday, May 26, 2005

A man involved in a ring that kidnapped illegal Mexican immigrants from smugglers and held them for ransom was convicted of federal charges

Associated Press:

Felipe Mendoza-Granades, 31, was convicted Thursday of conspiracy, hostage-taking and using a firearm in a crime of violence, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

Four other defendants pleaded guilty to the same charges last month: Luis Aguilar-Ramirez, 30; Sergio Aguilar-Ramirez, 32; Juan Becerra-Perez, 22 and Daniel Montano-Perez, 33.

All five men were illegal immigrants from Tepeapulco, Mexico.

Scheduled to be sentenced in July, the men face a minimum of 32 years in prison. Mendoza-Granades could receive an additional 20 years in prison.

According to prosecutors, the men sent an accomplice to Mexico posing as an illegal immigrant who wanted to be smuggled into the United States. Once here, the accomplice would contact associates who showed up and demand to be taken to the smuggler's "drop houses" - locations where smugglers hold immigrants until someone, often friends or relatives, pays for bringing them across the border.

On Feb. 11, 2004, armed members of the kidnapping ring confronted smugglers in a parking lot of a supermarket and forced them to drive to their drop houses, prosecutors said. The ring members then beat the smugglers and abduct the immigrants, who were then held for ransom.

One of the defendants admitted to taking part in about 30 other kidnappings, court papers show.

Illegal Alien Gang Nailed for Hostage Taking and Weapons Violations

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