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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Connecticut

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, November 14, 2019

Man Who Victimized Immigrants in Kidnapping and Extortion Scheme Sentenced to 14 Years in Prison

John H. Durham, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, announced that FRANCISCO BETANCOURT, 70, a citizen of Cuba last residing in New York, New York, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Stefan R. Underhill in Bridgeport to 168 months of imprisonment, followed by three years of supervised release, for his role in a kidnapping and extortion scheme. 

According to court documents and statements made in court, on numerous occasions, Betancourt and his co-conspirators targeted individuals after they exited buses at the Port Authority in New York.  The victims included women, men and children from Central American countries who did not speak English and were seeking asylum in the U.S.  Some of the victims planned to travel from New York to Connecticut.  Telling the victims that a connecting bus was not available and that they would provide transportation, Betancourt and others coerced the victims into vehicles.  The co-conspirators would then drive the victims around, sometimes for hours, and refused to release them until they or their families agreed to pay the co-conspirators an exorbitant amount of money, on average more than a $1000.

At times, co-conspirators posed as an immigration officer to intimidate the victims further.

Betancourt has been detained since his arrest on December 15, 2016.  On March 9, 2018, a federal jury in Bridgeport found Betancourt and his co-conspirators, Lucilo Cabrera and Carlos Antonio Hernandez, guilty of kidnapping, extortion and conspiracy offenses.  Cabrera and Hernandez await sentencing.

On October 12, 2018, a fourth defendant, Pascual Rodriguez, pleaded guilty to one count of kidnapping.  On July 2, 2019, Judge Underhill sentenced him to 135 months of imprisonment.

This investigation was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Vanessa Richards.

Topic(s): 
Financial Fraud
Immigration
Violent Crime
Component(s): 
Updated November 14, 2019