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Press Release

Organizer of a four year-old’s kidnapping sent to prison

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Texas

McALLEN, Texas – A 24-year-old Edinburg resident has been sent to prison following his conviction for conspiracy to commit hostage taking, announced U.S. Attorney Alamdar S. Hamdani.

Gilbert John Montez pleaded guilty April 24, 2023.

U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez has now ordered Montez to serve 200 months in federal prison to be immediately followed by three years of supervised release. In handing down the sentence, the court noted that when an individual is involved in a criminal enterprise, he can be held accountable for the actions of all the participants involved. Judge Alvarez stated that ultimately you have a young child being removed from his mother, whether voluntarily or involuntarily, and handed from person to person which can be very traumatic for the child. The court further pointed out that the child was being used as a piece of property that had value and could be used for profit.

“Human smugglers have a bad habit of becoming human kidnappers. Montez targeted a vulnerable family and leveraged a young child’s safety and a parents’ love to extort as much money as possible,” said Hamdani. “He did not care that this child was passed from stranger to stranger, each time increasing the risk the child would be harmed. Instead, Montez put profit before people and only cared about making more money. Now, because of the Southern District’s prosecutors and investigators, Montez’s heartless business is “out of business.” 

“HSI is committed to aggressively targeting human smugglers and smuggling organizers that have no qualms about using threats and even violence to collect their smuggling fees,” said Special Agent in Charge Craig Larrabee of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) - San Antonio. “We’ll continue to work jointly with our law enforcement partners to ensure that those who exploit people in these ruthless ways will themselves face serious consequences.”

Montez recruited and hired individuals to transport and hold a 4-year-old child for ransom.

On March 31, 2022, Jose Andres Romo-Torres took the young child from his mother at a Mission Texas house holding smuggled migrants and gave him to two strangers, Larissa Celena Gracia and Nichole Marie Garcia Tichacek to transport past the Falfurrias Border Patrol Checkpoint to Corpus Christi. The women then handed the child off to Michael Gee Ingram who transported the child to Houston. Once there, the child was given to Jonathan Orlando Ortiz-De Leon who took him to his apartment in Stafford.

During this time, Montez and Ortiz-De Leon contacted the young child’s father and informed him that his son would not be released until he paid $4,500. On April 3, 2023, Montez hired Carlos Oyervides to help Ortiz-De Leon collect the ransom payment and deliver the child to his father. Oyervides also spoke with the child’s father and told him he needed to pay the ransom to get his son back.

Authorities learned of the scheme and attempted to make arrangements with Oyervides and Ortiz-De Leon for the release of the child, but failed. They then tracked them down to an apartment complex in Stafford, took them into custody and located the child.

The others involved in the scheme all pleaded guilty to their varying roles and have also been ordered to prison.

Montez will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.

HSI conducted the investigation with the assistance of the Mission Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney M. Alexis Garcia prosecuted the case.

Updated January 16, 2024

Human Smuggling