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Los Zetas Kidnappers Plead Guilty

JAN 10 (LAREDO, Texas) – Four Laredoans have been convicted for their roles in a kidnapping ordered by Los Zetas drug trafficking organization and executed by members and associates of the Hermanos Pistoleros Latinos (HPL) gang, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agent in Charge Javier F. Peña and United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today.

Pablo Cerda, 36, and Ernesto Zaragoza-Solis, 29, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to kidnap and one count of using and discharging a weapon during and in relation to a crime of violence, while Grace Diaz-Martinez, 33, was convicted of one count of being an accessory after the fact to the kidnapping. Efrain Garza, 31, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to kidnap and conspiracy to use a weapon during a crime of violence.

The kidnapping was in retribution for a money load alleged to have been stolen by a subject who was to have delivered the drug proceeds to Los Zetas in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico.

On Sept. 19, 2010, at approximately 11:37 p.m., officers received a 911 call indicating that a person had been kidnapped at gunpoint from a residence on Eistetter Street in Laredo and that shots were fired. Officers met with the juvenile daughter of the victim who claimed her mother had been taken by force by several unknown subjects. The men had also attempted to take the daughter but she was able to resist and the kidnappers fled the scene with her mother.  The kidnapped victim would later identify Garza as one of the kidnapers who took her by force from her residence.

The next day, Cerda received a call from Zaragoza who reported “his friends already have the mother” and that “that they will pick her up and take her over there” (a reference to Nuevo Laredo, Mexico).

Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents ascertained the location of the victim shortly thereafter. On Sept. 20, 2010, agents and officers approached a residence on Piedra China, at which time the kidnapping victim immediately ran out of the house. Arrested at the scene were Zaragoza-Soliz, Diaz-Martinez, Garza and two others. It was determined the residence was the home of Garza and his parents and that Diaz-Martinez was also temporarily residing with them. Also found at the residence were three weapons to include a Smith and Wesson .38 caliber revolver, an unknown make 7.62 caliber pistol and a Norinco 7.62 caliber rifle, Model Mak-90.

Following her rescue, the victim explained that Garza was one of the subjects who grabbed her and forced her into a vehicle and she was transported against her will. Her wrists were bound with duct tape and her eyes were covered with a blindfold. During her captivity, suspects held a gun to her temple and demanded to know the whereabouts of her stepson and his friends, whom the kidnappers claimed had stolen more than $1 million from Los Zetas.

The victim was kept in a back bedroom continually with hands and eyes bound until the police came to the residence. When law enforcement arrived, Diaz-Martinez and Zaragoza-Soliz removed the blindfold and duct tape from the victim to avoid detection by the law enforcement agents at the door. Diaz-Martinez also made false statements, such as that the victim was never bound or blindfolded, that she had not been kidnapped or held against her will. The statements were made to hinder and prevent the apprehension, trial and punishment of Garza whom Diaz-Martinez was amorously involved with at the time and has since married.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Guillermo R. Garcia accepted the pleas today, but a sentencing date has not yet been set. All will remain in custody pending that hearing.

The convictions are the result of Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force Operation El Chacal is an investigation spearheaded by the DEA and assisted by the Laredo Police Department and Webb County District Attorney’s Office. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Mary Lou Castillo.

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