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Press Release

Two Men and a Woman Sentenced to Decades in Federal Prison Following Convictions for Kidnapping an FBI Employee at Gunpoint

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of South Dakota

SIOUX FALLS - United States Attorney Alison J. Ramsdell announced today that U.S. District Judge Karen E. Schreier has sentenced an El Salvadoran man, a Guatemalan man, and a Kersey, Colorado, woman convicted of the following offenses: Kidnapping; Carjacking; Brandishing a Firearm During and in Relation to a Crime of Violence; Unlawful Possession of a Firearm by a Prohibited Person; and Unlawful Reentry after Deportation. The sentencings took place on April 12 and April 26, 2024, in Rapid City, South Dakota.

Deyvin Morales, age 29, of Guatemala, was sentenced on April 26, 2024, to 47 years in federal prison, followed by five years of supervised release.

Juan Francisco Alvarez-Sorto, age 25, of El Salvador, was sentenced on April 12, 2024, to 35 years in federal prison, followed by five years of supervised release.  

Karla Lopez-Gutierrez, age 29, was sentenced on April 26, 2024, to 26 ½ years in federal prison, followed by five years of supervised release.

Alvarez, Morales, and Lopez were indicted by a federal grand jury in August of 2022. Lopez-Gutierrez pleaded guilty to Kidnapping and Brandishing a Firearm During and in Relation to a Crime of Violence on August 17, 2023. Alvarez and Morales were indicted again in December of 2023. On January 23, 2024, following a federal trial, Alvarez and Morales were found guilty of Kidnapping; Carjacking; Brandishing a Firearm During and in Relation to a Crime of Violence; Unlawful Possession of a Firearm by a Prohibited Person; and Unlawful Reentry after Deportation.

“The victim in this case was faithfully performing his duties when he found himself at the center of an absolute nightmare — fighting for survival in the back of his own car after these callous defendants carjacked, kidnapped, and held the victim at gunpoint for more than thirty minutes,” said U.S. Attorney Alison Ramsdell. “That men and women in law enforcement must face such profound risks to their lives while working to secure community safety is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. These lengthy sentences reflect those principles. Once again, we are grateful to the FBI and numerous other federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement partners for their unwavering commitment to both this investigation and to the righteous mission we all serve in this community.”

“These sentences reaffirm the FBI’s steadfast commitment to protecting our personnel from acts of violence and intimidation,” said Special Agent in Charge Alvin M. Winston Sr. of FBI Minneapolis. “We extend our gratitude to the USAO-SD and law enforcement partners for their unwavering dedication. Justice has been served, and we continue to stand united against any attempt to endanger our workforce.”

In her sentencing comments, Judge Schreier declared the defendants’ actions among the most horrendous crimes she had seen as a judge.

According to evidence admitted at trial, on May 5, 2022, Alvarez, Morales, and Lopez traveled from Greeley, Colorado, into southwestern South Dakota for the purpose of trafficking and distributing controlled substances, including methamphetamine, fentanyl, and heroin. During their trip, the defendants encountered a South Dakota Highway Patrol Officer and engaged in a high-speed chase. The defendants eluded law enforcement at that time and hid in a remote area near Red Shirt, South Dakota. 

Alvarez, Morales, and Lopez then decided to carjack the next vehicle to come along the area at which the defendants stopped on BIA Highway 41. At approximately 2:00 a.m. on May 6, 2022, a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Victim Specialist left an unrelated crime scene investigation near Oglala, South Dakota, and began traveling back towards his duty station in Rapid City. The FBI employee was driving his assigned FBI vehicle.

As the employee was heading North on BIA 41 near the Badlands overlook on Cuny Table, he passed a vehicle that was parked in the approach near the overlook. As he passed the parked vehicle, the parked vehicle’s lights turned on and the vehicle pulled out behind the employee. The employee, believing he was being pulled over by law enforcement, pulled his vehicle to the side of the road. After the employee pulled his vehicle over, he next realized there was a male at his window pointing a rifle at him and ordering him to get out of the vehicle. The employee realized that the male, identified as Alvarez, was not a law enforcement officer and also that the vehicle had blocked his own vehicle, preventing him from driving away. 

Morales and Alvarez ordered the FBI employee out of his vehicle at gun point. The employee was ordered to get on the ground behind his vehicle while Alvarez was holding the rifle at the back of his head. The employee was ordered to keep his head down while on the ground. The group then robbed him of his wallet, money, credit cards, car keys, watch, and personal and work mobile phones. 

The FBI employee was then ordered to get up and placed in the middle-rear seat of his government-issued vehicle, as the passenger side seat was blocked with items. While holding the rifle, Alvarez was seated in the front passenger seat of the employee’s vehicle and Morales, while armed with two handguns in his waistband, was seated in the rear driver’s side seat next to the employee. Lopez got into the driver’s seat of the employee’s vehicle. At this point, the defendants took control of the vehicle and took the employee hostage. As the group traveled North on BIA 41, they told the employee to cooperate and he would be safe, but if he did not, the group would come after his family and that they knew where he lived. 

The group traveled to Hermosa, South Dakota, stopping at a gas station at the intersection of State Highway 40 and Highway 79. Once the group arrived at the gas station, Lopez went inside to purchase gas. As she got out of the vehicle to go inside the gas station, Alvarez locked the doors to the employee’s vehicle, and the doors remained locked while Lopez was out of the vehicle. Lopez then came back to the vehicle holding a gas can and zip ties. She entered the vehicle and conducted a U-turn and then went to a gas pump. The FBI employee noticed that after Lopez came back to the vehicle, Alvarez, who was brandishing the firearm, had the zip ties in his possession and was getting them out. As Lopez got out to pump gas, the doors to the vehicle were momentarily unlocked. Seizing the opportunity, the employee opened the rear driver’s side door, fought his way out of the vehicle, slipping out of his jacket to escape Morales' attempts to detain him, and sprinted inside the front doors of the gas station to escape.

The three defendants then fled from the gas station and drove to Rapid City, where they abandoned the FBI vehicle and switched to another vehicle. Alvarez and Morales were able to make it back to Greeley, Colorado, where they were ultimately arrested for their roles in the kidnapping and carjacking. During a search of the residence where Alvarez and Morales were arrested, law enforcement located firearms, including the rifle used during the kidnapping and carjacking, and controlled substances. Lopez was arrested soon afterward.

This case was investigated by the FBI, Department of Homeland Security’s Homeland Security Investigations and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation, South Dakota Highway Patrol, Oglala Sioux Tribe Department of Public Safety, Rapid City Police Department, Greeley, Colorado Police Department, and the Custer and Pennington County Sheriffs’ Offices. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jeremy R. Jehangiri and Paige Petersen prosecuted the case.

Alvarez, Morales, and Lopez were remanded to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service to begin serving their sentences.

Updated April 28, 2024

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