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04/01/2011

4 sentenced for role in hostage taking

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Four men involved in a shootout and hostage-taking involving a woman and her three-year old-daughter in north Columbus in December 2009 were sentenced in U.S. District Court today.

Carter M. Stewart, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio; Brian Moskowitz, special agent in charge of U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Michigan and Ohio; Robert Browning, Special Agent in Charge, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF); Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien; and Columbus Police Chief Walter Distelzweig, announced the sentences handed down today by U.S. District Judge Algenon L. Marbley.

All four pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm by an illegal alien.

Judge Marbley sentenced Martin Valdez Zavala, 21, a Mexican national, to 87 months in prison; Guadalupe Villa-Rodriguez, 30, was sentenced to 111 months in prison; Mauricio Martinez Diaz, 28, to 111 months in prison; and Jorge Toledo Corzo, 28, to 87 months in prison.

Another individual charged in connection with the crime, Augustin Galvin Garcia Jr., aka Pedro Rodriguez Solano, 40, was sentenced on March 16 to 110 months in prison.

Martinez-Diaz is a Salvadoran national. The others are Mexican nationals. All face deportation after serving their prison sentences.

On Dec. 14, 2009, the four traveled in two cars trying to locate a man who had stolen a kilogram of cocaine delivered by Martinez Diaz. In the early evening, in an area just north of Morse Road, the men saw the man they were looking for and a shootout ensued. The man fled. But the defendants were able to follow a minivan driven by the man's girlfriend. She and her three-year old daughter were in the vehicle.

The defendants used their vehicles to block the woman's minivan, climbed in, drove it to Augustin's residence and took the woman and her daughter inside. They called the man and demanded between $20,000 and $30,000 in exchange for the return of the woman and child. After a night of negotiating, some of the defendants left to meet the man in hopes of collecting the ransom. Columbus Police stopped the men and recovered four firearms including a sawed-off shotgun. Columbus Police officers went to the residence and executed a search warrant, arrested Villa Rodriguez, seized two more firearms and safely recovered the woman and her child.

"Columbus Police safely handled a volatile situation," Stewart said. "They also secured the evidence necessary for HSI to quickly conduct a thorough investigation into the men and their backgrounds and for ATF to investigate the firearms."

"HSI will continue to work with our local and federal partners to aggressively pursue and remove dangerous illegal aliens who threaten public safety from our communities," said Moskowitz. "As a result of these criminal convictions, these aliens will be removed from the country at the end of their prison sentences."

Stewart commended the cooperative investigation by HSI and ATF agents and Columbus Police officers, and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kevin Kelley and Michael Hunter and Assistant Franklin County Prosecutor Daniel Hawkins, who prosecuted the case.