Captors Vowed to Mutilate Teen if $500K Ransom Wasn't Paid

17-year-old rescued Friday in California; 3 suspects now face life in prison
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 26, 2023 8:07 AM CDT
Teen Kidnapped, Held for $500K Ransom
A 9mm handgun, like the one discovered by authorities.   (Getty Images/SolidMaks)

A California teenager was found safe Friday, four days after he was kidnapped by men who threatened to cut off his body parts unless his family paid a $500,000 ransom. The men caused the 17-year-old to crash his vehicle into their Jeep Grand Cherokee in the city of Highland on the morning of Sept. 18. When the teen exited his vehicle, the men forced him into the Jeep and drove off, according to the US Attorney's Office for the Central District of California. Hours later, the teen's mother received a phone call from individuals demanding $500,000 be delivered to Nogales, Mexico, per USA Today. She also received video of the teen reading from a script.

The teen allegedly stated that the kidnapping was payback for his father stealing something in Yonkers, New York, per NBC News. "You know what you stole," the teen read, per USA Today. Authorities make no mention of the events in New York. They say the family continued to receive calls over the next several days, with captors threatening to cut off the hostage's body parts if the ransom wasn't paid. At one point, the ransom was lowered to $100,000. Still, the family didn't pay. By Friday, investigators had tracked the captors to a motel in Santa Maria, some 200 miles from Highland, using doorbell camera footage of the kidnapping and a Facebook Marketplace post that listed the Jeep for sale, per NBC.

Armed with a warrant, authorities searched a motel room, finding the teen on the floor in a corner, along with three suspects, a loaded 9mm handgun, and a switchblade, per a release. "Few things can be as terrorizing to a parent as having your child kidnapped and held for ransom under threat of physical harm," said US 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 suspects are named as Fidel Jesús Patino Jaimes, 22; Jair Tomás Ramos Domínguez, 26; and Ezequiel Felix López, 27. All are charged federally with kidnapping and could face life in prison if convicted, the AP reports. (Read more kidnapping stories.)

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