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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of Texas

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Woman Sentenced for Participating in Kidnapping of Two U.S. Citizens in Mexico

LAREDO, Texas – A 31-year-old Mexican woman has been ordered to federal prison for her role in conspiring to hold two U.S. nationals hostage in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, Mexico, announced U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick. Ruth Sarahi Lopez-Espinoza, of Nuevo Laredo, pleaded guilty Feb. 15, 2017.

Today, Visiting U.S. District Judge Keith P. Ellison handed Lopez-Espinoza a total sentence of 153 months in federal prison. At the hearing, two kidnapping victims spoke of the pain and destruction this event inflicted on them and their families. In handing down the sentence, the court noted that this was one of the worst cases he has seen during his time on the bench. Lopez-Espinoza was ordered to pay $25,000 in restitution to the two victims. Not a U.S. citizen, Lopez-Espinoza is expected to face deportation proceedings following the sentence.

On July 16, 2006, four men wearing masks and brandishing pistols kidnapped two U.S. nationals as they were leaving a wedding reception of a co-worker from a Laredo restaurant. The masked captors forced the victims into the victims’ vehicle and to wear hoods. They were taken to an unknown residence in Nuevo Laredo and detained for two days until the ransom demands were met. The captors demanded $20,000 and the victims’ two vehicles.

During their confinement, the captors told the victims there was an employee at the restaurant who was providing them with current information about what actions were being taken to secure their release. The kidnappers also said they knew about the wedding reception and that they were targeted because of their vehicle  - a Chrysler 300.

With cooperation from Mexican law enforcement, U.S. authorities eventually identified Christina Rodriguez, an employee at the restaurant where one of the victims worked at the time, and her sister - Lopez-Espinoza - as the persons who provided the captors with information about the wedding date, location, targets and real time information about investigative efforts during the detention of the victims.

Lopez-Espinoza was arrested in Nuevo Laredo on March 12, 2015, and later extradited to the United States June 28, 2016. 

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

Rodriguez, 42, of Laredo, was also convicted and previously sentenced to 168 months in federal prison and also ordered to pay restitution to the victims.

The kidnappers who executed the plot are currently incarcerated in Mexico for a separate but similar scheme.  

The FBI conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Christopher S. Coker is prosecuting the case.

Violent Crime
Updated February 27, 2018