NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – The District of New Mexico United States Attorney’s Office reports that three people have been charged in federal court with hostage-taking in Chaparral, New Mexico. According to a press release from the US Attorney’s Office, 40-year-old Ricardo Arce, 35-year-old Vicki Sowell, and 34-year-old Jonathan Gonzalez are accused of participating in an alien smuggling organization that held victims hostage for money and assaulted the victims. Arce and Gonzalez are from Chaparral while Sowell is from El Paso, Texas.
According to a criminal complaint, on April 4, a citizen from the country of Georgia entered the United States from Juarez, Mexico into El Paso. The victim then reportedly met people who were allegedly part of an alien smuggling organization and paid them to transport him to New York where his family lives.
The complaint alleges that they transported the victim to an unknown location and would not let him leave. The US Attorney’s Office states that the individuals allegedly assaulted the victim by punching, kicking, and hitting him and threatened to kill him unless they received more money.
After the victim provided contact information for his family in Georgia, the suspects allegedly sent videos of the victim being assaulted and told the family they would continue to harm or kill the victim if the family didn’t pay. The U.S. Attorney’s Office reports that around April 25, the family contacted law enforcement in Georgia who then contacted the FBI.
Law enforcement recovered the victim at a barbershop in the El Paso area on February 27. According to the US Attorney’s Office, around April 13 a citizen of Honduras entered the United States from Juarez and around April 14 this second victim was reportedly taken to a trailer where about 14 other individuals were allegedly held.
The victim was then reportedly taken to another trailer and then later to a house where he encountered the victim from Georgia. The defendants allegedly assaulted the second victim multiple times on video and threatened his life if he didn’t pay them.
The press release states that on approximately April 17, the defendants allegedly contacted the victim’s family in Dallas, Texas and demanded money for the victim’s release. The victim was then recovered by law enforcement at a pizza restaurant in the El Paso area on April 27.
The US Attorney’s Office reports that Arce and Sowell were arrested on April 28 and Gonzalez was arrested on May 12. Arce and Sowell will remain detained pending trial while a detention hearing for Gonzalez is scheduled for May 26.
This case was investigated by the FBI El Paso Field Office with assistance from the FBI Las Cruces Resident Agency, El Paso Police Department, Las Cruces Police Department, Otero County Sheriff’s Office, Doña Ana County Sheriff’s Office, U.S. Border Patrol El Paso Sector and Border Patrol El Paso Sector Special Operations Detachment BORTAC. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Matthew Ramirez, Luis Martinez, and Rachel Feuerhammer are prosecuting this case.