LAREDO, Texas – Two men have pleaded guilty to kidnapping and holding victims for ransom for three days, announced U.S. Attorney Jennifer B. Lowery.
Jesus Ochoa, 26, Laredo, pleaded guilty today, while Luis Armando Garcia, 29, a Mexican citizen illegally residing in Laredo, admitted his role in the scheme Monday, Feb. 28.
On Nov. 19, 2020, Ochoa and Garcia went to the banks of the Rio Grande in Laredo. There, they encountered a group of individuals who had just crossed the river and offered them a ride to San Antonio in exchange for payment.
They traveled to Garcia’s residence in Laredo, but told the group they were actually in San Antonio. They then forced all four people to call their family members and ask them to send $4,000 for each person’s release.
For three days, Ocho and Garcia held the group hostage at the residence, threatening each person with a firearm. They repeatedly forced them to call family members and beg for ransom money. Held at gunpoint, the victims had to record videos and voice messages, make video calls and send text messages to family. On several occasions, Ochoa and Garcia spoke to the family members directly, telling them if payment was not made, something would happen to the hostages.
Ultimately, family contacted authorities who were able to obtain the general location where the phone calls originated.
Ochoa and Garcia saw law enforcement in the area and panicked. They loaded the group back into a vehicle and transported them to an industrial park in Laredo. They dropped off the group and said they would return later.
The victims borrowed a phone from a nearby truck driver and called for help. Authorities found all four and were transported to safety.
U.S. District Judge Marina Garcia Marmolejo accepted the plea and will set sentencing at a later date. At that time, Ochoa and Garcia face up to life in prison.
They have been and will remain in custody pending that hearing.
Homeland Security Investigations and Laredo Police Department conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Makens is prosecuting the case.