Four suspected smugglers have been charged in a Southern California kidnapping scheme, accused of holding a Mexican national in a padlocked shed and beating him because he could not pay their smuggling fee.
The man got into the U.S. on Nov. 8, 2014, with the help of Jose Duerte, Kandra Teleford, John Vincent Bellino II and Raul H. Perez, according to a federal indictment unsealed in El Centro Tuesday.
But five days later, the plan started to go awry when the suspects discovered the victim could not pay the $5,000 smuggling charge. The man was taken to Los Angeles and then to a hotel in Brawley, where he says two of the men assaulted him.
Finally, he was put in a shed, which his captors chained and padlocked, the indictment states.
The victim says on Nov. 15, he overheard the suspects, standing outside the shed, talking about killing him. That evening, he decided to call 911 on his cellphone.
Police traced his call to the 1500 block of A Street in Brawley, where they found one of the suspects. While talking to him, the police sergeant heard yelling and banging coming from inside the shed, according to prosecutors.
They pried the doors open and freed the man inside. He told them the suspected smugglers had beaten him and taken his money.
Court records say the suspects also made ransom demands to the man’s family, eventually accepting a wire transfer from his daughter and stealing a car from her home at gunpoint.
Duarte and Telford, both of Arizona, were arrested the day police discovered the victim. Bellino II was arrested April 2 in his hometown of Phoenix, about the same time Perez was taken into custody in his hometown of Brawely.
Perez was charged with conspiracy to commit hostage taking and conspiracy to commit kidnapping. Bellino was charged with same counts, as well as carrying and brandishing a firearm in the commission of a crime.
Duarte and Teleford face charges of kidnapping, hostage taking and transportation of “certain aliens,” as well as conspiracy to commit hostage taking and kidnapping.
All defendants could get life in prison if found guilty. It’s unclear if they have obtained attorneys.