Five men were arrested in the state of Baja California for operating a kidnapping cell. The men allegedly belong to the Tijuana Cartel faction currently run by Fernando Sánchez Arellano, alias El Ingeniero (the engineer) and were captured after an investigation into the kidnapping of 4 students led to their arrest.
The head of the cell was identified as former State Judicial Police officer Mario Moreno Lizarraga originally from Sinaloa. In a conference held yesterday the Attorney General for the state Rommel Moreno Majarrez gave the details of the case:
On September 15th four students, three men and one woman, were traveling in a car around 3 a.m. When they were stopped by armed men who were driving a vehicle equipped with sirens and emblems of the state police. The phony officers ordered the driver to pull over and turn off the engine. Soon, more men arrived and the four were split into pairs and taken aboard different trucks until finally arriving at a safe-house in colonia Jardin Dorado.
On the 18th the kidnappers made one of the young men contact his mother and explained he had been abducted and the amount of cash it would take to get him back. They would call her in eight days to come up with as much money as she could. On the 24th when the kidnappers made contact for the second time she only had $107,192 pesos ($8700 USD) but said she couldn't come up with anymore. They explained they could only accept a minimum of $3 million pesos ($239,095), otherwise they would kill her son.
By the Wednesday the 29th agents from the anti-kidnapping division had located two safe-house's the abductors had been using recently. An undercover agent was able to make his way into the house and detained one of the suspects Venacio Betran, age 50, in the living room. In the hallway closet the agent located one of the victims who was blindfolded, with his hands tied to his feet. The three other students were also found alive and in the same condition.
After a short interrogation, officers arrested Moreno Lizgarra who was driving an unregistered 1999 mercury with a 9mm handgun tucked in his waistband. A search of the safe-house yielded two AK-47's, a 9mm Uzi sub-machine gun and several handguns and ammunition clips. The Attorney General stated that ballistics reports indicated at least two of the weapons had been used in previous homicides and all five cell members have been implicated in 15 violent murders, but gave no further details.
In addition, Moreno Lizgarra confessed to two decades of membership in the Tijuana Cartel, but since the arrest of Teodoro Garcia Simental, alias El Teo this past January he had branched out and formed his own unauthorized subset of the organization. He admitted was receiving his orders from a high level sicario known only as El Ciego who is currently being held in a maximum security prison and within the last few months decided to reintegrate himself with the estranged faction of the cartel run by El Ingeniero.