Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Spillover Violence: San Juan teen randomly kidnapped, found in Reynosa

Jared Taylor
The Monitor
















SAN JUAN —Police reunited a teenage woman with her family Monday afternoon, nearly 19 hours after she was abducted, blindfolded and dumped in a Reynosa field.

The 18-year-old woman, whose name was not disclosed by police, was walking to a friend’s house about 6:30 p.m. Sunday.

A black van pulled up alongside her and three men hopped out, San Juan Police Chief Juan Gonzalez said. They snatched the girl, blindfolded her and took her to Reynosa.

The kidnappers began calling the woman’s family demanding ransom money.

“The kidnappers somehow missed it that she had a cell phone,” Gonzalez said. “We were able to keep communicating with her.”

The chief said police investigators, FBI agents and Hidalgo County sheriff’s deputies negotiated with the kidnappers. Once the abductors realized their victim’s family would not be able to pay a ransom, they dumped her in a random field.

She had her cell phone, but police still had no idea where she was.

Customs officers and U.S. Border Patrol agents were put on alert to look for the teen and a helicopter surveyed Mexico from this side of the border, but found nothing.

U.S. authorities did not contact their Mexican counterparts because they did not know whether they were corrupted or connected to the girl’s captors, Gonzalez said.

The girl had no idea where she was, Gonzalez said, and because she was in another country, officers could not go there directly to pick her up.

“The only thing that prevented us from going out there and helping her was that river,” the chief said.

For about four hours during the night, authorities could not reach her on her phone, likely due to a poor signal.

“We felt helpless because we couldn’t help her at all,” he said.

It was the cell phone that proved crucial to finding her location and bringing her home, Gonzalez said.

“We were able to keep communicating with her,” he said.

Random people the girl encountered would not help, either.

“People that she came across didn’t want to help,” the chief said. “People are living in fear in Mexico.”

Gonzalez would not specify exactly who went to pick up the girl — only that a “courageous person” crossed and found her covered in dirt, but unharmed.

“The only thing that was on her mind was ‘I want to go home with my mom,” the chief said. “‘I want to be safe.’”

Kidnappings for ransom involving random victims rarely occur in the Rio Grande Valley, law enforcement officials said. But they still do happen.

In November 2009, a McAllen businessman was abducted at gunpoint from a Starbucks Coffee parking lot and taken to Reynosa. The kidnappers demanded $30,000 and two luxury vehicles as ransom. Mexican police found the man bound and beaten at a northeast Reynosa house and returned him to the United States.
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11 comments:

  1. The chiefs of police of each border town such as Reynosa and McAllen could get together and pick and accept a certain few LEO's with permission to cross.

    Protocols must be established. If the officers maintained professionalism this could be a step toward regaining control of the border.

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  2. I don'tget it, how can they cross the border with people at gun point?

    We just get stopped and the xray machines. or are they just for show??

    Was this business man Charlie Clark? Or that Raulito eye doctor? I heard rumors about both of them being kidnapped then released.

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  3. Did you ask how they can cross the border with people at gun point? Geez.. I don't know, how do they cross the border with kilos of cocaine? Or guns at all (which are illegal to posess in Mexico), or millions in unclaimed cash. I'm guessing they don't stop at the checkpoints...

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  4. Something does not smell right with this story. Either that or we are missing a lot of details.

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  5. DAN WALSH SACRAMENTOAugust 25, 2010 at 9:03 AM

    first post ever:

    if there was a Thesis behind all of what is going on in Mexico....

    (as I show as many people to this web site as possible to give AWARENESS)

    this line is what is really the issue;

    "U.S. authorities did not contact their Mexican counterparts because they did not know whether they were corrupted or connected to the girl’s captors, Gonzalez said."

    thats fuckin insane....and all the money we throw into this

    legalize drugs.... and the violence abruptly ends

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  6. it was later determined (like yesterda)that this same girl was living in the USA illegally so she was deported back to Mexico with relatives already living in Mexico.

    and news outlets are now saying this whole kidnap-thing may have been a hoax...

    what do you guys think?

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  7. Questions surround San Juan kidnapping case as victim remains stuck in Mexico

    THE MONITOR

    SAN JUAN — Diana Ramos said she was relieved after learning her daughter was safe and back with family after her apparent kidnapping Sunday night.

    Local, county and federal investigators chased the reported kidnapping of Gabriela Hurtado for more than 19 hours Sunday night into Monday afternoon.

    Hurtado was reunited with family members Monday evening. And then she was returned to her father in Reynosa — the 18-year-old is an illegal immigrant who has lived in the U.S. since she was 6.

    “Customs wouldn’t let her come back,” Ramos said in Spanish. But “she’s OK.”

    Some investigators familiar with the case said they question whether it was actually an abduction. Key details did not add up throughout the investigation, they said.

    At least one investigator believes the apparent abduction was a hoax designed to get Hurtado a U Visa, which would allow her to stay in the U.S. while a criminal case is investigated.

    Monitor efforts to reach Hurtado on her cell phone were unsuccessful.

    San Juan police said three men abducted the young woman about 6:30 p.m. Sunday as she was walking along Farm-to-Market Road 495 near Cesar Chavez Road.

    The abductors apparently stopped in a black vehicle, grabbed the teenage woman and took her to Reynosa. Police said the abductors demanded ransom for Hurtado’s safe return but eventually cut her loose in a field with her cell phone.

    San Juan Police Chief Juan Gonzalez said he believes Hurtado was kidnapped and released when her abductors realized the family would not be able to pay a ransom. The chief said that FBI and local investigators worked throughout the night to secure Hurtado’s release.

    Hurtado was reunited with her family about 1:30 p.m. Monday, the chief said.

    “We believe that if it was a hoax kidnapping, we wouldn't have gone as far as we went,” Gonzalez said.



    ‘WHY WOULD THEY LET HER GO?’

    Questions continue to dog the bizarre kidnapping case, however.

    Investigators not authorized to speak about the case said they believed the abduction was a hoax or Hurtado’s apparent captors were amateurs.

    Throughout the course of the investigation, police kept in contact with Hurtado via her cell phone — a tool that is easily tracked by law enforcement through the device’s GPS chip and by tracking its location relative to the location of signal towers.

    Normally, kidnappers toss or destroy a victim’s phone, as it’s one of the first methods police use to find a victim, investigators said.

    When law enforcement connected with Hurtado via her cell phone, she apparently was able to talk for several minutes with her mother.

    Investigators said they never overheard or spoke directly with Hurtado’s supposed captors, although Gonzalez said Monday that law enforcement had had contact with the captors.

    Hurtado was also unable to give even a basic description of her kidnappers, even though the abduction occurred during the day and she saw the vehicle they were driving. Gonzalez said she told investigators she was blindfolded while she was abducted.

    He maintains the case actually was a kidnapping but said it was possible the abductors had little experience in crime.

    “It could be that these guys were just beginners kidnappers,” the chief said. “Why would they let her go? We truly believe it was a legitimate kidnapping.”

    Investigators also said Hurtado’s boyfriend, Gustavo Maldonado, who first reported the abduction to police, showed an odd lack of emotion while authorities probed the case.

    Police arrested Maldonado on assault charges upon learning he had an outstanding warrant in an unrelated Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office case. Maldonado could not be reached for comment at his San Juan home Tuesday afternoon.

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  8. IMMIGRATION LIMBO

    Frustrated, investigators said FBI agents and sheriff’s deputies helping investigate the supposed abduction gave up on the case about 4 a.m. Monday, convinced the case was not a kidnapping.

    Gonzalez said the other agencies helping investigate did not bail or question the kidnapping’s legitimacy. Rather, he said he sent the other investigators home.

    But by that time, Hurtado had already been located and was safe, investigators said. A Mexican national without a visa but a possible kidnapping victim, Hurtado found herself caught in limbo at the Hidalgo-Reynosa International Bridge.

    “It was just a matter of (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) letting her come back across,” one investigator said.

    Eventually, Hurtado was allowed to go to the San Juan Police Department for several hours Monday afternoon to meet with her mother and police investigators, Gonzalez said. But without the proper visa to allow her to stay in the country, she returned to Reynosa, where her father lives.

    Gonzalez initially told representatives of the local media — including The Monitor — that Hurtado was able to return to her family in San Juan. Only later that night, the chief said, did he learn that the teen would have to return to federal custody or Mexico.

    “We did not find out until later (Monday) that was not allowable,” Gonzalez said.

    Authorities not authorized to speak about Hurtado’s case said they questioned how she could be allowed to return to Reynosa without any deportation order or any other petition for a visa filed.



    ‘AFRAID TO GO OUTSIDE’

    Gonzalez, who was in Laredo attending a human smuggling conference on Tuesday, said he continues to work with federal authorities to obtain a U Visa for Hurtado.

    For Hurtado to gain the special visa, she must initiate the paperwork with ICE, said Nina Pruneda, area spokeswoman for the federal agency. Each U Visa is awarded on a case-by-case basis depending on the criminal investigation involved, she said.

    Gonzalez said those who may doubt whether Hurtado actually was kidnapped are in denial about the possibility that random crimes can occur in the Rio Grande Valley.

    “People just don’t want to believe that there’s violence,” the chief said. “They don’t want to believe that it’s possible.”

    And regardless of whether the kidnapping actually occurred or was a hoax, Ramos said she now fears her neighborhood and for her daughter, who had lived with her in San Juan the past 12 years.

    Hurtado was set to begin her senior year at Pharr-San Juan-Alamo Memorial High School this week, the mother said.

    “I am very scared because it wasn’t very far from here,” she said of the suspected kidnapping. “I am afraid to go outside.”

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  10. AND what about the 72 bodies of illegals found today? Killed because they could not pay the extortion. What cartel? Zeta? are you going to run the story?

    Brownsville & San Pedro (i think)

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  11. BTW: a kidnapping of a 3 year old boy last year from San Bernardino california...do you remember? but as it turned out the family only lived in the home for a few days and the target was the previous family. Very similar, the boy was found with his long hair shaved and dyed wandering the streets of Baja. I have to give kudos to the authorities they did not focus on the family being illegals, just getting the child back to the parents, they moved the next day

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