TUCSON, Ariz. - Five men are facing numerous federal charges after they allegedly kidnapped a confidential informant working for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) during an attempted drug deal rip-off in Tucson.
A federal grand jury this week indicted Israel De La Rocha-Rivera, Angel Ochoa-Cazares, Guillermo Leon-Rivera, Oscar Contreras, and Pedro Cano Jr. with 11 felony counts, including hostage taking, conspiracy to possess marijuana with intent to distribute, possession of a firearm during a crime of violence, and an illegal alien in possession of a firearm.
ICE agents, working on an undercover sting operation, negotiated a deal with Leon-Rivera for 600 pounds of marijuana. On April 12, agents provided Leon-Rivera and his associates with a pick-up truck which was to be loaded with the marijuana, agreeing to pay for it once it was returned. The truck was eventually returned to the buyer empty.
Nonetheless, the five named defendants conspired to demand payment from the buyer in an act known as a "drug-rip." They kidnapped the purported buyer that same evening at gun point. The defendants drove him to a house once owned by Contreras, now in foreclosure. They bound the buyer and beat him, and repeatedly threatened to kill him.
During the ensuing evening and early morning hours of April 13, the five defendants continued to hold the buyer hostage, making demands of the buyer's contacts for either full payment or return of the 600 pounds of marijuana. Unbeknownst to the five defendants, however, the buyer was a confidential informant and the people the hostage takers had been communicating with all along were ICE agents. In addition, the ransom calls were tape recorded and the earlier "load" pick-up truck had been under continuous surveillance the entire day, confirming that no marijuana had ever been delivered to ICE or their undercover buyer. An ICE Special Response Team raided the house at dawn, freeing the victim and arresting the defendants.
If convicted, all five defendants face from five to 40 years on the marijuana conspiracy charge, a minimum of seven years on using a gun during a crime of violence, and up to life in prison for the hostage-taking offense.
An indictment is simply the method by which a person is charged with criminal activity and raises no inference of guilt. An individual is presumed innocent until competent evidence is presented to a jury that establishes guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.