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Mexican Nationals Kidnapped, Held for Ransom

Mexican Nationals Kidnapped, Held for Ransom



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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Seven Mexican nationals were kidnapped in southeastern Utah and held for ransom, but were rescued at an Arizona hotel by tribal police, and their five alleged abductors were arrested, authorities said.

All 12 were illegal immigrants from Mexico, the FBI said.

An affidavit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City by Mike Anderson, an FBI special agent, said the seven victims had pooled their money to buy a van and travel to the United States.

Just north of Mexican Hat in southeastern Utah, the driver saw a white Dodge Intrepid with flashing blue lights behind him about 7:30 p.m. on Saturday. Thinking it was a police officer, he pulled over.

Two armed men came up to the van and forced the driver and the front-seat passenger into the back, according to the affidavit.

The assailants then drove the van to the Anasazi Inn, about 10 miles west of Kayenta, Ariz., on the Navajo reservation.

The seven were threatened with death and ordered to provide the names of family members and friends who would pay for their release, the affidavit said. Three other men participated in the abduction by either watching the hostages or calling to solicit the ransom, it said.

They were kept through the night and some victims said they were kicked or punched.

A friend who received instructions to wire $500 to Juan Guillen-Guillen in Kayenta instead set out to locate them in the Arizona town. He spotted the van and called police.

The police found the seven hostages Sunday morning and arrested the five suspects: Guillen-Guillen, Miguel Benabe-Martinez, Antonio Escobvedo-Lopez, Pedro Argenta-Pinto and Osmar Cruz-Velasco.

The five were to have an initial court appearance on charges of hostage taking before U.S. Magistrate Samuel Alba in Salt Lake City Thursday.

The van passengers, six men and one woman, were being held by immigration authorities in Colorado.

Last year, two brothers who impersonated police, carjacked a van of illegal immigrants in southeastern Utah and drove it to Colorado were sentenced to more than 12 years in federal prison. The victims in that case were deported.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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