Man from El Paso pleads guilty to hostage taking

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FILE PHOTO: Signage is seen at the United States Department of Justice headquarters in Washington, D.C.

ALBUQERQUE, N.M. – Jonathan Gonzalez, 35, of El Paso, Texas, pleaded guilty in federal court on March 18 to an indictment charging him with one count of conspiracy to take a hostage and two counts of hostage taking. Gonzales will remain in custody pending sentencing, which has not been scheduled.

A federal grand jury indicted Gonzales on July 21, 2021. According to the plea agreement and other court records, from April 1, 2021, to April 27, 2021, Gonzalez and his accomplices, Ricardo Arce, 41, of Chaparral, New Mexico, and Vicki Sowell, 36, of El Paso, took two victims hostage in Chaparral. The victims were identified in the plea agreement as B.M., a citizen and national of Georgia, and N.N.P.-C., a citizen and national of Honduras.

On April 4, 2021, B.M. entered the United States from Juarez, Mexico, into El Paso to meet with people who were part of an alien smuggling organization and paid them to transport him to New York where his family lives. They transported B.M. to Arce’s residence where Gonzalez held him hostage and threatened to injure and kill the him if they did not receive money for his release. On April 13, 2021, N.N.P.-C. entered the United States from Juarez and was also taken to Arce’s residence and held hostage by Gonzalez.

On April 25, 2021, B.M.’s family contacted law enforcement in Georgia. Georgian authorities then contacted the FBI, who helped recover the victim at a barbershop in the El Paso area on April 27, 2021. On the same day, law enforcement also secured the recovery of N.N.P.-C. at a pizza restaurant in El Paso.

Arce and Sowell pleaded guilty in September 2021 to one count of conspiracy to take a hostage and two counts of hostage taking. They remain in custody pending sentencing.

Gonzalez faces up to 15 years in prison.

The FBI El Paso Field Office investigated this case with assistance from the FBI Las Cruces Resident Agency, El Paso Police Department, Las Cruces Police Department, Otero County Sheriff’s Office, Doña Ana County Sheriff’s Office, U.S. Border Patrol El Paso Sector and Border Patrol El Paso Sector Special Operations Detachment BORTAC. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Matthew Ramirez and Rachel Feuerhammer are prosecuting the case.