News and Press Releases

MEXICAN NATIONAL SENTENCED TO MORE THAN 12 YEARS IN PRISON IN CONNECTION WITH KIDNAPING; FOILED BY AMBER ALERT

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 11, 2005

GABRIEL FLORES-LOPEZ, 25, a native of Mexico, was sentenced to 151 months in prison today in Seattle by U.S. District Judge Thomas S. Zilly. FLORES-LOPEZ pleaded guilty in June 2004, to Transportation of a Minor to Engage in Sexual Activity. Under the terms of the plea agreement, the charge of Kidnaping was dismissed. Kidnaping carries a mandatory minimum term of 20 years in prison. Prosecutors agreed to the plea deal to spare the 13-year-old victim the trauma of testifying in court and to allow her family to return home to Mexico to care for an ailing relative.

According to court documents, on March 9, 2004, FLORES-LOPEZ grabbed the young girl when she went to use the bathroom in the home where she was staying in Mount Vernon, Washington. It was about 9:00 at night and the rest of the family was asleep. The young girl tried to get away, but as she later told investigators, "he was too strong." Fortunately, a 14-year-old boy who also lived at the home with other migrant workers, saw the girl being forced into the car. The teen ran down the street and called 9-1-1 from a pay phone. He was able to give a description of the car and the license plate. Law enforcement issued an "Amber Alert" for the car, the young girl, and FLORES-LOPEZ. Some twelve hours after the abduction, a Clackamas County Sheriff's Deputy located FLORES-LOPEZ and the girl at a migrant camp in Molalla, Oregon. The girl had been sexually assaulted.

In asking the court to approve the lengthy sentence, Assistant United States Attorney Tessa Gorman stressed the vulnerability of the young victim. The girl had just arrived in the U.S. from a small village in Mexico. She spoke a rare native Mexican language called Mixteca and had just started learning English. Gorman told Judge Zilly that the girl was "traumatized, humiliated and confused" when officers rescued her and was unable to talk about the ordeal. Only later, using a coloring book, was she able to communicate how she was harmed. Prosecutors agreed to dismiss the kidnaping charge in exchange for the lengthy sentence because the girl "was terrified and traumatized and telling the story each time took a little bit of her away."

Judge Thomas S. Zilly noted: "For all the reasons the prosecutor indicated, I believe this sentence is appropriate."

Prosecutors also highlighted the quick and diligent work of investigators that resulted in the return of the child. The Mount Vernon Police Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Clackamas County Sheriff's Department investigated the case.

Assistant United States Attorneys Tessa Gorman and Bruce Miyake prosecuted the case.

For additional information contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney's Office, Western District of Washington, at (206)553-4110.

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