Three men accused of trying to collect money in a kidnapping and extortion scheme involving a fourth man who claimed ties to a Mexican cartel were arrested last week during a “ransom drop,” according to court documents.
Fernando Cabrera, 21, Nygul Anderson, 19, and Albert Gonzalez, 18, remained in custody this week on federal charges of conspiracy to possess extortion proceeds, the U.S. attorney’s office announced Monday.
A juvenile also arrested during the drop was named in a criminal complaint, but he has not been charged.
Cabrera, Anderson and Gonzalez had traveled from the McAllen area in South Texas to pick up $100,000 from the victim, a North Richland Hills man who had been receiving threatening calls from a Mexican phone number demanding the money, the complaint said.
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The caller, who was not named in the complaint, first called the victim on Sept. 22 and said that the victim’s two brothers in Mexico had been kidnapped and were being held for ransom.
The caller demanded $300,000 before lowering the demand to $40,000 and then to $20,000, the complaint said. When the victim agreed to pay the money, the caller told him to leave it by a dumpster at a 7-Eleven store in north Fort Worth, near Interstate 35W and Heritage Trace Parkway.
The victim dropped the money and then received another call informing him of his brothers’ location. Relatives in Mexico went to the location and found the brothers tied up in a motel room.
On Sept. 29, the victim received another call from the same man, who demanded $100,000 “or else they would kidnap [the victim’s] brothers again and kill them,” the complaint said.
The caller told the victim that he works with the Mexican police and the Jalisco cartel. The caller gave him until Friday to make another ransom drop, the court documents said.
The victim agreed but refused to leave the Fort Worth area to make the drop. The caller told him to drop off the money at the Home Depot off I-35W and Basswood Boulevard, the complaint said.
When the victim arrived about 4:30 p.m. Friday, FBI agents were also outside the store, monitoring the drop. After the victim dropped off the money, the agents saw the juvenile exit a red Chevrolet Camaro to pick up the cash, the complaint said.
The agents then arrested the juvenile, along with Cabrera, Anderson and Gonzalez, who were also in the Camaro.
Cabrera denied knowing that the money was part of an extortion scheme, the complaint said, but he admitted that he and the other three men had gone to retrieve “illicit funds.”
Anderson told agents that the men were getting the money for Cabrera’s uncle, the complaint said.
The extortion case is the second time in a month that suspects with alleged ties to the Jalisco New Generation Cartel have been arrested in North Texas.
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In September, eight suspects linked to the drug-trafficking organization were arrested in Dallas on federal drug charges, accused of trafficking methamphetamine and other drugs from a “superlab” and selling them out of a used car dealership.
The Jalisco New Generation is the newest of the most powerful cartels in Mexico, according to the DEA. The cartel formed around 2010 after breaking off from Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman’s Sinaloa cartel.
At border towns, cartel drug smugglers are only limited by their imagination, often hiding drugs in secret compartments within vehicles. McClatchyrosborne@star-telegram.com