Man says he was kidnapped by ‘Mexican Mafia’

By Jessica Stith
of The Daily Times Staff

A Louisville man claimed he was kidnapped, held hostage for nine days, beaten, cut, burned and threatened by two suspects who said they were with the “Mexican Mafia.”

Jose Ignacio Ortega Garcia said two men, who referred to themselves as members of “Las Cetas” or “The Cs,” tortured him and extorted almost $27,000 from him over the 10-day period.

He finally escaped and two men were arrested after an investigation by Knox County Sheriff’s Office Detective Heather Reyda and FBI Special Agent Buddy E. Early Jr.
Juan Gonzales and Jose Sanchez, were indicted on charges of conspiracy to commit kidnapping, kidnapping, two counts of using, carrying and brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence and attempting to steal a motor vehicle with intent to cause death and bodily injury (carjacking).

The two men are being linked to other similar attacks and were arrested in Houston after Assistant U.S. District Attorney Tracy Stone filed a complaint in connection with Garcia’s kidnapping.

According to an affidavit filed in U.S. District Court, the incident began on June 13 when Garcia agreed to meet with the two men who said they needed work. Garcia operates a Knoxville construction company and the two men were referred to him by a woman named Claudia Paez, who worked for his wife at a Knoxville translation service.

Garcia planned to meet the two men at a location in West Knoxville. The two men joined Garcia in his vehicle to check out a potential job site in
Lenoir City, the affidavit said.

Garcia stopped for one of the men to use the restroom and was then hit several times in head by Sanchez and Gonzalez, according to the complaint.

The two men are accused of holding a gun to Garcia’s head, putting a knife to his throat and threatening to kill him. They then drove Garcia to a wooded area where he was bound and assaulted again.

Garcia was forced to write a $400 check to Gonzalez, and Sanchez “guarded” Garcia with a knife while Gonzalez left for a while, the complaint said.

The man was then taken to a motel room at West Park Inn/Visa Inn in Knoxville where he was bound with torn bed sheets, and soda cans containing coins were tied to his wrist so the suspects could hear if he tried to escape.

The affidavit alleged that the two men tortured Garcia and forced him to write numerous checks and arrange payments of cash from various friends and associates of Garcia. The suspects allegedly extorted about $27,000 from the Louisville man.

“Victim Garcia also was forced to place a monitored telephone call to his wife in which he was forced to say that he had left her for another woman so she would not call the police,” the complaint said.

‘El Comandante’

Garcia told authorities that the men claimed to be involved in drug trafficking and told Garcia that he owed them a drug debt, which Garcia denied to authorities.

“Victim Garcia was forced to speak by telephone with someone referred to by the suspects as ‘El Comandante,’ whom the suspects seemed to regard as their superior,” the affidavit stated.

“El Comandante” also threatened the Louisville man with beatings death and death of his family if he did not pay $200,000, the complaint stated.

On June 21, it was alleged that Gonzales brought Sanchez a hand-held video game. Sanchez played that game all day and much of the night until he became exhausted and fell asleep.

The morning of June 22, Garcia told authorities he was able to loosen his bindings and flee the motel room. He ran to the motel office, told the clerk that the men were trying to kill him and asked for 911 to be called.

According to the affidavit, authorities recovered torn, bloody sheets, soda cans filled with coins and a large knife that was burned at the tip, which Garcia said had been used to burn him.

They also found $1,000 and numerous pieces of paper with Garcia’s signature on them. Garcia reported that he had to practice his signature due to numbness from the bindings.

Authorities reported that Garcia had burns, cuts and bumps on his head consistent with blows to the head. The complaint stated that it was also obvious that Garcia had not bathed in days.

Claudia Paez and her sister Maria Paez were apparently depositing and cashing checks for the men, but claim that they did not know about the kidnapping, the affidavit stated. They were reportedly arrested on felony charges of theft and forgery.
Garcia and Sanchez will be facing the charges in U.S. District Court.

Originally published: August 17. 2007 3:01AM