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Cuban kidnappers charged with torturing victims in Merida hideout

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Two men promised to smuggle at least three Cuban migrants into the United States, but instead locked them in a Merida house and tortured them, Florida prosecutors say.

Reynaldo Marquez Crespo, 41, and Jancer Sergio Ramos Valdes, 33, both Cuban, face 35 years in prison on charges of alien smuggling and kidnapping.

Crespo and Valdez promised their victims safe passage across the Yucatan Straits and then overland across Mexico, according to court documents.

But their journey ended instead in Yucatan, each locked in a house and held for US$10,000 ransom. One kidnapper cut off a victim’s finger when family members couldn’t raise funds to release him, court documents say.

If money was paid, the victims were sent on a bus to the U.S. border and instructed to ask for asylum, according to prosecutors.

Another victim, who had medical issues and wore a colostomy bag, was stripped naked, tied up and stunned with a Taser, the Miami Herald reported. Then the kidnappers sent a video of the torture to his family members in Las Vegas, according to the complaint.

The kidnappers contacted a second victim’s family in Miami and said their relative would be beaten and killed if they didn’t fork over $7,000, according to court records. Later, the victim said that a kidnapper “told the group that he had raped the wives of other victims he had previously kidnapped as a form of payment,” according to court records.

A third victim escaped the Merida hideout and alerted Mexican authorities, who freed an unknown number of captives.

U.S. authorities captured Crespo in Texas while Valdes was arrested in Connecticut, where a federal magistrate judge ordered that he be held without bail pending trial.

Both men face charges of conspiring to induce aliens to come to the United States and conspiracy to commit kidnapping. If convicted, they could face a maximum of 20 years in prison for kidnapping and a maximum of 15 years for human smuggling, according to media reports.

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