Blog dedicated to reporting on Mexican drug cartels
on the border line between the US and Mexico

Saturday, March 18, 2023

American Woman Kidnapped in Colima, FBI Offering $20,000 Reward

"HEARST" for Borderland Beat

In the Mexican state of Colima, an American grandmother named María del Carmen López was kidnapped for ransom by masked men. The kidnappers have now stopped calling and the FBI announced a $20,000 reward for information. 

The FBI Announcement

On March 16, 2023, the FBI Los Angeles office announced, in a press release, that they were offering a $20,000 USD reward for information leading to the location of a dual US-Mexican citizen who is believed to have been kidnapped in Colima, Mexico.

The press release reads as follows:

The FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office is seeking the public’s help and is offering a reward of up to $20,000 in exchange for information that leads to the physical location of a woman believed to have been kidnapped earlier this year.

Maria del Carmen Lopez, 63, was kidnapped from her residence in Pueblo Nuevo, Colima, Mexico, on February 9, 2023. Lopez is an American citizen.

Lopez is an Hispanic female with blonde hair and brown eyes. She is 5’2” and, when last seen, weighed approximately 160 lbs. Lopez’s eyeliner is permanent/tattooed.

Anyone with information about Lopez’s physical location should contact their local FBI office or the nearest American Embassy or Consulate. In Los Angeles, the FBI can be reached at 310-477-6565. A tip may also be submitted online at

The FBI is conducting this investigation jointly with law enforcement authorities in Mexico. 

They also released a poster, in both English and Spanish, which shows photos of Maria del Carmen along with identifying information and the tip line phone number.

Details of the Case 

María del Carmen López was born in Mexico but her family moved to the US when she was less than five years old. She grew up, got married, and raised seven children in America as a dual US-Mexican citizen. 

In 2014, at 54 years old, María and her husband decided to buy a retirement home in Mexico. Her seven children, now adults, continued to live in the US, in both Los Angeles county and Riverside county. 

María and her husband have been moving back and forth, visiting their relatives in Mexico and their relatives in southern California for the last nine years, presumably without issue.

This all changed, however, on February 9, 2023, when armed men entered their home in the town of Pueblo Nuevo, in the Mexican state of Colima. 

María happened to be alone in her home on that day. Her husband had stayed behind in Los Angeles because of a doctor’s visit. Whether the armed men knew María would be alone is unclear. 

Robert Kovacik, from NBC4 Los Angeles, reports that María “was one of the only people in this town - and this is important - to have WiFi, and having WiFi attracted a lot of neighbors, and people who lived nearby, outside of her gates.” 

“Those people would later become eye witnesses when men, wearing masks, showed up to her house and whisked her away in the middle of the day.” 

María’s daughter, Zonia López, told NBC that neighbors saw the men “get off of the truck. They had hoods on their heads, and they exchanged some words. They said they heard my mom [...] plead that she was not going to go with them - she would not go.”

Zonia recounted the abduction again to CBS, saying "Two individuals picked her up and another one came out of the vehicle. They had their heads covered and they covered her mouth and that's when they took her." CBS writes that a witness saw a group of as many as five men abduct María. 

Word of what happened got back to María’s children. Zonia told 6ABC that she and her siblings immediately tried contacting her. "We all started calling her to see if she would pick up her phone or answer her messenger but we did not hear from her.” 

FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller emphasized that the agency “does not believe it [the abduction] is drug related. We believe that she was targeted for a kidnapping.”

María’s daughter Zonia told CBS that "there was never any sort of [prior] threats. There was never any kind of enemies - anything that would indicate that she was in any kind of trouble."

The Ransom Demands

Soon after she was taken, María’s family received calls, presumably from her kidnappers, which demanded money in exchange for her release. 

María’s daughter Zonia told Reforma newspaper that the kidnappers “have been asking for money. There have been calls since this started. There was a demand for a very large amount of money - the type of money that we do not have. We are just a normal, hardworking family. We live paycheck to paycheck here. We do not know why [they’d think otherwise] - maybe they think that she can afford it because her children live in the United States.”

The kidnappers sent her family an audio recording in which María can be heard asking her family to pay her ransom “because her life depended on it”, a line likely fed to her by her kidnappers. 

It's likely that this audio recording was requested by the family, who may be working with FBI hostage negotiators, in order to obtain proof of life, or evidence which demonstrates that a hostage is still alive. 

The FBI spokesperson Laura Eimiller says “the agency has a longstanding policy of not paying ransoms. However, they do help facilitate ransoms if a victim's family chooses to pay.”

The calls from the kidnappers continued and discussion of payment was ongoing until the beginning of March 2023, when the calls stopped. It has now been two weeks since the kidnappers last made contact with the family. 

Laura Eimiller said the FBI chose to offer the reward money now because “we're at the point, now, where we felt reward money was in order.” 

Investigating Agencies

The Mexican state Attorney General's Office (FGE) began María’s abduction on the same day that it occurred, February 9. 

María’s daughter Zonia expressed that although she believes the Mexican government is “handling the case the best they can. They have not given us enough information, enough details. We want to know the information they have, where can we find my mom.” 

“We have been providing them with information, but they are the ones who can actually conduct the interviews, conduct the search. As a family, we are trying to support them [Mexican investigators] one hundred percent, alongside the FBI.” 

The FGE released a statement saying that from the moment they began investigating, they “shared the information they had with federal authorities and also collaborated with U.S. institutions seeking to clarify the facts and safeguard the integrity of the victim.”

On February 27, 2023, the federal Attorney General’s office (FGR) took over the investigation from the state Attorney General's Office (FGE). 

The Likely Perpetrators

Maria’s daughter Zonia told 6ABC that investigators “have ruled out that the cartels are involved but suspect the incident may be part of an organized kidnapping.” This likely means that the two major cartel organizations in Colima, the Sinaloa Cartel (CDS) and Cártel Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG) are not involved. 

It is more likely that a small, independent gang from the area is behind the attack. The criminal history of Colima seems to support this theory. 

Just this year, the two men were convicted by the Colima Attorney General’s office for a kidnapping they perpetrated in 2019. 

In that case, the men preyed on a man and his mother who were driving to deliver payroll to their workers. The men abducted the victims and demanded money in exchange for releasing them. Eventually, the money was paid and the man was freed. Both men were said to be a part of a local kidnapping gang. A judge sentenced the perpetrators to serve 50 years in prison. 

In 2020, a man was convicted for holding a man for ransom for six days. Authorities say the man did not act alone but was instead the leader of a local kidnapping gang. 

That same year a kidnapping gang made up of four men and one woman were arrested. They are believed to have kidnapped at least 4 men and demanded money from their relatives. 

There are many forms of kidnapping for ransom, the most common of which is known as secuestro exprés, or express kidnapping. 

In an express kidnapping, the target is picked at random from a public space, most often taken from gas stations and shopping center parking lots. After a victim has been nabbed, the kidnappers will demand a ransom from the victim’s relatives. An express kidnapping is primarily characterized by the short amount of time in which a victim is held, usually holding them for a few hours and no more than a couple of days. 

Maria’s kidnapping would not be considered an express kidnapping because she was not taken from a public space and she was held captive for an extended period of time. Her kidnapping does seem consistent with other crimes which took place in the area in recent years, such as the aforementioned. case where the man was held for six days.

A Mother and Grandmother

María del Carmen López is a mother to 7 children and a grandmother to 19 grandchildren. 

One of Maria's sons, Tony, told CBS News that despite the recent lack of calls from the kidnappers, "we're doing everything we can, still. We're not gonna give up on my mom. We're gonna find her, one way or another."

Zonia later tearfully addressed the public in a video, trying to encourage people who were considering sending in information, saying “If you’re scared, please think about her. Think about the fear that she’s feeling.” 

You can submit a tip by visiting, calling your local FBI office, or contacting the nearest American embassy. 

Sources: FBI Press Release, FBI English Poster, FBI Spanish Poster, CNN, Reforma, La Jornada, Los Angeles Times, KTLA, NBC4 Los Angeles, Diario de Colima, TV Azteca, CBS News, 6ABC


  1. Thanks HEARST for the in depth article.
    Where are the crybabies, that said USA only takes action on Black citizens? But not Brown or White, changed your mind?

    1. Not all Mexicans are brown.

    2. Mexican is Mexican. We all descendants of Natives from this country so in theory theres a lil brown in everyone whether they like it or not.

    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    4. 4:32 not all mexicans have brown in them. Look at your elite.

    5. 4:32 Some Mexicans are still Spanish white, most are meztizo (part Spanish, part indigenous) which makes some brown and others white. (There is a sizable minority that are of French descent- last names, Guillen, Lemus, Betancourt ect.)

  2. Some people never learn they like to live on the edge dangerous hope she gets released.

    1. if they find her. i wouldnt mind hooking up with her

  3. This breaks my heart. My prayers just went out to her and her family. I hope there is a positive outcome that can be reported to all. Thank you Hearst. Mexico needs International help. Or, The Second Coming.

  4. Excellent article, Hearst. Much more informative than any other article I've read on the incident.

    The unfortunate truth is that were it not for the press regarding the Matamoros incident, nobody would have ever heard of this.

    Incidents like this are perpetrated on Mexican citizens every single day in many parts of the country. I suspect that the Colima cartel is not happy about this now that there is press coverage, and the kidnappers will be, um, dealt with.

    This incident along with Matamoros will make ex-pats residing in Mexico as well as tourists rethink their own safety, retirement and vacation plans, hurting Mexico's economy in the process.

    We sold a few years ago (after about 40 years) because we anticipated a descent into lawlessness, but many ex-pats are in denial. It can happen to anyone, any place, any time. Currently less likely to happen to ex-pats, but as gangs recognize the financial rewards which are possible, that will change. We knew many people with lots of money down there, ourselves included, and we felt that it was only a matter of time before we were targeted.

    Over the years there were incidents. Car was seized from behind a locked gate by the local police because of expired tags, and when we came down and reported it to the police.....they showed up driving our car with a Kojak-type light on top (many years ago). Someone broke in and robbed relatives at spear-gun point. The police broke into our house (probably with the assistance of our dirty property manager) to have sex with their sidepieces and to drink on duty.

    None of these incidents made us leave. It was the possibility of being kidnapped which scared us more than anything else, and that prompted us to leave. We had been there too long and too many people knew of our businesses in the states and that we were financially comfortable. Just felt like we would eventually be targeted. We feel like we made the right choice. Many more will now reevaluate their existence in Mexico, only to find they can no longer afford to buy a house and relocate to the US.

    There was a saying among the ex-pats in town. "The problem with Mexico is Mexico."

    1. Thank you for your thoughtful comment.

      I believe you are completely right about ex-pats being targeted less than Mexican citizens.

      Kidnapping and negotiating a ransom for an abducted American can bring down a lot of heat, so kidnapping gangs likely prefer to target Mexican citizens. Unfortunately, stories about the kidnapping of Mexican citizens usually only emerges after (or if) the perpetrators are caught.

      I think you bring up great points about how this will impacts foreigners from potential vacation and retirement plans.

      I hope you know that choosing to leave places that make you feel unsafe (if you are able to) is a decision you should never regret.

    2. Bunch of broke drug addicts wannabe bosses run the only real tax revenue the state can collect. Why cities all over the world would rather let broke bums that leech off society run all the good clean money out of town. It happens all across the United States I’m sure same thing goes for Mexico.

    3. 9:32 Hopefully because me as Mexican living in my country I’m sick of gringos coming over … Don’t come to my country, we don’t want the American ways in Mexico

    4. @6.45. Come on man, somebody gives some genuine personal insight, explains in detail why they felt the need to uproot their family after decades and you spout the usual bullshit about wannabe gangsters and leeches on society? And no, it isn't the same in Mexico.

  5. 9:32 thank you for sharing your experience, appreciate it. And the denial aspect it is so pervasive for many people, throughout so many frightening areas that I have seen, it's almost like a defense mechanism when people have no choice but to stay in the pit of the Beast, to survive, to live without constant fear, you have to put on your blinders that statistically you have a 5% chance of being taken for ransom( as a wealthy person in an area, or somebody who is presumed to have a wealthy family AKA American middle class). I say this with the understanding that not all of Mexico is a tinder box in the belly of the beast.

    1. Yet Mexican public propaganda, states Americans are coming by the hundreds to live in Mexico.
      Then Lopez Obrador says in his daily conferences Mexico is safer than USA lol, then again he says Fentanyl is not coming from Mexico. LoL Give me a break.

    2. 9:32 here again.

      Hundreds? Try thousands. Not all of Mexico is a lawless hellhole, but it seems to be headed there. Rent and drinks are fairly cheap, everything else is a little bit less than USA, but not drastically less. Money goes further in Mexico, and you can afford an ocean view for reasonable amounts in most places. I get the attraction. Puerto Vallarta, Yucatan peninsula, etc., are still relatively safe but changing. You notice it most when walking down the main drag in tourist areas by how many times you are approached by people offering to sell you drugs (something that never happened to us where we lived). Even the pharmacies have been invaded by the cartels, as fentanyl is now being found in most xanax, opioids, etc., obtained from farmacias.

      We were in Sonora, on the water, where the cartels have now taken over. There were various cartel hits over the years at the marina, taco stands, etc. We got out a few months before they attacked the police station with machine guns after the police "arrested" a cartel member, who they turned over to a competing cartel. The arrestee was never heard from again, prompting the attack on the station. That's when we knew we had made the right decision to leave. Buh bye.

      There was a burst of cartel activity in our town which made big headlines last summer. The town is a big driver for the economy in the area, so the gov made a big show of cracking down and there was a lot of press about it and the cartels have quieted down at least for the time being. I suspect that once summer and the local crowds come, the cartel activity will be very active again and the murders will start back up. Drug wars to sell drugs to all the Mexican tourists who flood the town in summer (snowbird town in winter). Oh, wait, I forgot, AMLO said there is no homegrown drug consumption problem so I must be mistaken.

    3. Yeah most of these “cartels “ aren’t cartels at all but organized street gangs. But I guess it’s more convenient to the government to put the “ cartel” title to get government attention. But cartels I’ve always thought sole purpose was drug trafficking, not stealing gas , extorting people , kidnapping , any of that shit will draw heat and to be effective drug smugglers you don’t want law enforcement paying any attention to you. But these guys love and crave the attention.

    4. @932? Are you referring to San Carlos? I heard they shut down the main night club Bartina due to security guard getting killed! I was in San Carlos in 2018 and also 2017 and it was beautiful!

  6. 9:32. Two very good descriptive comments you made, reading them made me feel like I was there witnessing , what you went through.
    Driving Ms H. usually comes on BB, when it's Avacado related or an interesting comment like yours, as you can see we have been long time BB readers. Another that offers interesting comments is Detroit , I think he is gone out fishing.

  7. Fucking people are hard headed. Go to mexico this is what happens. This lady probably dead already like the 3 that dissapeared by the border. After all that has happened lately and put on the news if you go to mexico and get fucked up is like youre asking for it. Dont expect help from mexican aithorities and you cant expect for ppl to even care or feel sorry for you. All you have to do is stay in usa where the worse that can happen is you get killed by some looser retard gunman in mass shooting.

    1. But,but,but, you mfker potty mouth.
      The President of the Republic of Mexico, has assured us that all is safe in Mexico. Of what Americans need to do is hug and kiss their kids, and that magically, will erase the urge to want to use drugs.
      There is no crime in Mexico, there are no kidnapping, no rapes, no extortionist, Mexico is safe, come over for Spring Break.

    2. people won't be told. they think it's only the border which is dangerous.

    3. Sorry, I rather get tortured in a beautiful country with real freedoms. Stay in your little bubble and be a good boy!

  8. Vacas crew are desperate for money

  9. Amlo was told what to say, just like colombia was back in the days, narcos didn't want the US in colombia. I see it happening in Mexico

  10. 20 grand for for a small cooler

  11. Maria Del Carmen Lopez is my mother and we are desperate to find her. My mom is a good woman with a big heart. She didn’t deserve this to happen to her.
    Thank you for writing this article 🙏🏻

    1. I am very sad for you and cannot imagine your sorrow. I am praying for her return to your family.

    2. I know I speak for everyone here at Borderland Beat when I say that we are sorry this happened to your family and we hope your mother comes back to you safely.

      If there's anything we can do to help, don't hesitate to reach out.

  12. FGR stated they started investigating on the day she got kidnapped. How about adding another 10 days, when it already got, stone cold long disappeared.
    We all know they don't investigate until they feel like it.

  13. Any updates?


    1. I just checked and I'm not seeing anything new yet. But I'll keep checking when I can.


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