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Human Smuggling/Trafficking

ICE rescues 4-year-old taken hostage in human smuggling scheme

Suspects threaten boy's life, extort cash from mother

PHOENIX - Two illegal aliens suspected of holding a 4-year-old boy hostage are facing state kidnapping charges following the child's rescue by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents.

ICE agents rescued the boy from a gang of hostage takers in Mesa, Ariz., October 21 following a report from the child's mother in West Palm Beach, Fla.

Marlene Garcia, an illegal alien from Guatemala, alerted the West Palm Beach Police Department after she received phone calls threatening her son's life and demanding for money. The police brought the case to ICE's Office of Investigations in West Palm Beach, which alerted ICE agents in Phoenix. The Phoenix ICE office then initiated an investigation seeking to find the child. Investigators were able to track the kidnappers to a Mesa hotel, where they discovered the boy and arrested the suspects.

Marcelino Ramirez-Velasquez, a 34-year-old citizen of Guatemala, and Jose Luis Torres-Pais-Paez, 25 years old and a citizen of Mexico, are each facing one count of kidnapping, a class two dangerous felony and dangerous crime against children and one count of theft by extortion, a class four felony. Both defendants were indicted by a Maricopa County grand jury on October 31, 2008.

"It's well-known that human smugglers have little regard for human life," said Matt Allen, special agent of the ICE Office of Investigations in Arizona. "However, threatening the safety of a child, takes this reprehensible disregard to a whole new level."

"This case is indicative of the style of violence this office has been combating. The violence not only endangers neighbors but also helpless children," said Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas. "We are grateful that Immigration and Customs Enforcement was able to rescue this child."

In addition to the three hostage takers, ICE arrested two Mexican nationals who were encountered in the same hotel rooms being used by the alleged smugglers. Javier Garcia-Hernandez and Jorge Mora-Valdez are being prosecuted for reentry after deportation, a federal felony which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.