By the Department of Justice
Three men were arrested [Friday] and have been charged in a federal criminal complaint alleging they kidnapped a 17-year-old boy in San Bernardino County and held him for ransom in Santa Maria.
Fidel Jesús Patino Jaimes, 22; Jair Tomás Ramos Domínguez, 26, of Santa Maria; and Ezequiel Felix López, 27, all of whom told law enforcement they were from Santa Maria, were arrested Friday morning and were charged this evening with kidnapping, a felony that carries a statutory maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
The defendants are expected to make their initial appearances on Monday afternoon in United States District Court in downtown Los Angeles.
“Few things can be as terrorizing to a parent as having your child kidnapped and held for ransom under threat of physical harm,” said United States Attorney Martin Estrada. “Together with the FBI and our local law enforcement partners, we have acted swiftly to rescue the victim and bring the abductors to justice. I commend the agents and officers for their heroic efforts to free the victim and prevent a devastating tragedy from occurring.”
According to an affidavit filed with the complaint, on the morning of September 18, the defendants allegedly caused a traffic accident in which the victim – a 17-year-old boy – crashed into their silver-colored Jeep Grand Cherokee. After the collision, the victim exited his vehicle. At that point, the defendants allegedly grabbed the victim and forced him into their vehicle.
On the afternoon of September 18, the victim’s mother received a telephone call from a Mexican phone number. The caller demanded the delivery of $500,000 to an unspecified location in Nogales, Mexico for the victim, and said that the abduction was the fault of the victim’s father.
Shortly thereafter, a different Mexican telephone number was used to send a WhatsApp video to the victim’s mother’s cellphone. The video showed the victim in the backseat of the Jeep Grand Cherokee and reading from a script, saying that the abduction was his father’s fault for an incident that occurred in New York, and saying you know what you stole.
For several days afterward, the victim’s mother received multiple phone calls from different Mexican telephone numbers in which the speaker demanded payment and threatened to cut off body parts of the victim if payment wasn’t made. The ransom demand, which went unpaid, was reduced to $100,000.
Law enforcement ultimately tracked the defendants down to a motel in Santa Maria, in part by identifying the vehicle used during the kidnapping in a Facebook Marketplace posting and by reviewing Ring door camera footage of the kidnapping.
During the execution of a search warrant at one of the motel’s rooms this morning, law enforcement found the three defendants – one of whom tossed a firearm onto the floor – and the victim, who was lying on the floor in a corner of the room, according to the affidavit.
A criminal complaint contains allegations. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
The FBI and the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department are investigating this matter. The Santa Maria Police Department provided substantial assistance.
Assistant United States Attorney Sean D. Peterson of the Riverside Branch Office is prosecuting this case.
Search Warrant Served in Santa Maria
By the Santa Maria Police Department
On 09/22/2023 at approximately 0520 hours, the Santa Maria Police Department supported an outside municipal and federal agency in search warrants in the City of Santa Maria.
In contrary to what is being said on social media, no gunshots were fired during the incident.
The specifics regarding the investigation are being withheld at this time to protect the investigation more information will be released at a later time.
No injuries were reported during the search warrant.