Three men were arrested and charged Sept. 22 for allegedly kidnapping a 17-year-old boy and holding him for ransom of $500,000 in Santa Maria, California, authorities said.
“Few things can be as terrorizing to a parent as having your child kidnapped and held for ransom under threat of physical harm,” said United States 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.”
The three men—Fidel Jesús Patino Jaimes, 22, Jair Tomás Ramos Domínguez, 26, and Ezequiel Felix López, 27, all of Santa Maria—allegedly caused a traffic accident with their silver-colored Jeep Grand Cherokee Sept. 18 involving the teenage boy in San Bernardino County. Once the victim stepped out of his car the suspected captors forced him into the Jeep, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Later that day, the victim’s mother received a phone call from a Mexican phone number saying the abduction was the victim’s father’s fault and demanding $500,000 be delivered to an unspecified location in Nogales, Mexico, according to authorities.
Not long after, a separate Mexican phone number sent a WhatsApp video showing the victim in the back seat of the Jeep, reading a script saying, “you know what you stole,” referencing an incident involving his father that happened in New York, the U.S. Attorney’s Office stated.
Over the next few days, the alleged kidnappers continued to call the victim’s mother, demanding the ransom and threatening to cut off parts of the victim’s body if they failed to do so, authorities said.
The ransom demand was reduced to $100,000 but was never paid, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
Law enforcement was able to identify the alleged kidnappers’ vehicle using a Facebook Marketplace posting and locate them in a motel room in Santa Maria through a Ring door camera footage of the kidnapping.
Authorities executed a search warrant of the motel room on Friday morning and found the victim lying in the corner of the room on the floor and arrested the three men—one of whom had a firearm but tossed it on the floor during the search—according to the affidavit.
The FBI and San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department are investigating the incident with assistance from the Santa Maria Police Department.
All three have been charged with kidnapping, a felony that carries a statutory maximum sentence of life imprisonment, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
They are expected to appear in the U.S. District Court of Riverside Oct. 2.