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Human Smuggling/Trafficking

Man arraigned on charges including kidnapping, retaliating against a witness

PANAMA CITY, Fla. – A 30-year-old man was arraigned in federal court Monday on charges related to kidnapping, retaliating against a witness and transporting an individual across state lines to engage in prostitution. The case was investigated by the FBI and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Jacobo Feliciano-Francisco, aka "Uriel Castillo-Ochoa" or "Kiko," pleaded not guilty to the charges. His trial is scheduled for Dec. 9.

The indictment alleges that between 2006 and 2011, numerous individuals created a network of brothels and prostitution delivery services in Tennessee and Kentucky using undocumented aliens from Spanish-speaking countries. F.T., whose identity is being withheld for her protection, cooperated with the FBI in its investigation into these individuals after she was forced and coerced to work as a prostitute for nearly three years. Due to her cooperation, a total of 13 individuals were convicted in Tennessee and Kentucky of various federal sex-trafficking and prostitution criminal charges. In the fall of 2012, following her cooperation with law enforcement, an individual approached F.T. at her Tennessee residence and confronted her about her cooperation. Due to safety concerns, F.T. and her family relocated to Panama City Beach.

Following F.T.’s relocation, Feliciano-Francisco and others tracked her down and kidnapped her with the intent to transport her from Florida to Louisiana to force her to work as a prostitute. The kidnapping was done as retaliation for her prior cooperation with law enforcement. After she was kidnapped, several law enforcement agencies, including HSI, stepped in to provide assistance to locate her.

While kidnapped, F.T. was sexually assaulted by Feliciano-Francisco. He and others also repeatedly threatened her and her family’s physical safety. Feliciano-Francisco transported F.T. to a residence in Mississippi where she was confined until another conspirator arrived to transport her to Louisiana. At that point, F.T. escaped from her kidnapper and sought refuge at a local law enforcement agency. From there, law enforcement agencies, including HSI, found and arrested the man who kidnapped her.

If convicted on the kidnapping charges, Feliciano-Francisco faces up to life in prison. He also faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted on the transportation and coercion charges and up to 20 years in prison if convicted of retaliating against a witness. He also faces fines up to $250,000 and supervised release following his prison term.

An indictment is merely an allegation by a grand jury that a defendant has committed a violation of federal criminal law and is not evidence of guilt. All defendants are presumed innocent and entitled to a fair trial, during which it will be the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.