Three enforcers hired by the Mexican Sinaloa drug cartel kidnapped and tortured two teenagers from St. Paul, Minn., who they suspected had stolen drugs and money from the cartel.
The Star Tribune reports that cartel leaders ordered Jonathan Alvarez Delgado and Jesus Ramirez to travel to Minnesota from Los Angeles in mid April to recover the stolen methamphetamine and the money. The two men are alleged to be members of a feared transnational gang known as MS-13.
According to the Star Tribune article, shortly after arriving in Minnesota the two gang members visited a “stash house” in St. Paul and confronted Antonio Navarro, 19, who ran the house for the cartel. They pressed him for information on the theft and he fingered two teens who were subsequently kidnapped and brought back to the house. Once there, the teens were tied to chairs, beaten and had their lives threatened.
They were told they had to come up with either the drugs or $300,000 to repay the cartel. The teens claimed they were not involved in the theft, but not before Juan Ricardo Elenes Villavazo, also of St. Paul, reportedly tried to cut off one of the boy’s fingers on as way to obtain information.
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After hours of questioning the kidnappers decided the victims were not involved in the theft and they were released. The house was stormed on April 15 by a St. Paul SWAT team and Delgado was arrested at the scene. Other arrests followed, including the apprehension of Ramirez following an April 17 police chase in Los Angeles after federal authorities tracked him there.
On Tuesday federal authorities unsealed an indictment alleging all four men were involved in the kidnapping and torture. Delgado, Ramirez, Navarro and Villavazo are also charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. Three of the men are in custody but Villavazo remains at large.
"The allegations in the indictment are a frightening reminder of the violent capabilities of drug traffickers," U.S. Attorney Andy Luger said in a statement according to the Associated Press.
The FBI would not comment on the involvement of MS-13 in the crime but a spokesman for the agency said, “The outcome of this incident could have been much worse.”
All four defendants face a potential sentence of life in prison if convicted on the drug count.