PHILADELPHIA – United States Attorney Jacqueline C. Romero announced that Eduardo Castelan-Prado, 39, of Leonia, NJ, and Jose Ochoa, 32, of Moreno Valley, CA, were convicted after trial of kidnapping charges arising from the abduction of a teenage victim from Northeast Philadelphia to New Jersey just over one year ago in June 2021.
In June 2021, the defendants were charged by Indictment with conspiracy to commit kidnapping and kidnapping in connection with their actions, along with a third conspirator, to kidnap a 17-year-old in the parking lot of a restaurant in Philadelphia, which was the teen’s place of employment, after his shift ended. Evidence presented at trial showed that on June 14, 2021, Castelan-Prado, Ochoa, and a third co-conspirator then transported the victim to a residence in New Jersey, where they held him at gunpoint while making ransom demands of $500,000 to his parents. The FBI and the Philadelphia Police Department were able to determine the victim’s location by tracing the ransom calls, and in the early morning hours of June 16, 2021, an FBI SWAT team executed a search warrant at an apartment complex in Leonia, New Jersey, rescued the victim, and arrested the defendants.
“The events of this case are every parent’s worst nightmare: someone with ill intentions forcefully taking their child. These defendants kidnapped a teenager in an effort to extort money, a crime for which they will now be appropriately penalized,” said U.S. Attorney Romero. “As was the case here, our investigators and prosecutors will work quickly and tirelessly to identify, locate and charge anyone who attempts this type of violent crime in our district.”
“These defendants abducted a child in order to extort his parents,” said Jacqueline Maguire, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division. “This boy was made a pawn in a despicable and dangerous ploy for money. I’m so proud of all the folks who worked around the clock to locate and recover him, before his abductors inflicted any physical harm. These kidnapping convictions mean they’ll be off the street and behind bars for decades, unable to victimize anyone else’s child.”
This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. The Department of Justice reinvigorated PSN in 2017 as part of the Department’s renewed focus on targeting violent criminals, directing all U.S. Attorney’s Offices to work in partnership with federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement and the local community to develop effective, locally-based strategies to reduce violent crime.
The case was investigated by the FBI Philadelphia and FBI Newark, and the Philadelphia Police Department, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Justin Oshana and Kate Shulman.