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Regional Organized Crime Information Center SPECIAL RESEARCH REPORT

TAKEN! Investigating Drug-Related and Financial Kidnappings I. Drug-Related Kidnappings Introduction............................................................................2 The Situation in the Southwest..............................................2 Drug Trafficking Organizations (DTOs) Locations.................3 Atlanta, Ga.: Hub of DTO Activity..........................................4 ROCIC Region: Drug-Related Kidnappings..........................4 Investigating a Drug-Related Kidnapping..............................5 Developing an Anti-Kidnapping Unit......................................6

II. Financial Kidnappings Introduction............................................................................7 Common Reasons for Kidnapping........................................8 Initial Response to a Financial Kidnapping...........................8 Crisis Negotiation Teams.......................................................8 Criteria for FBI Involvement...................................................9 The Cost of Kidnapping.........................................................9 ROCIC Region: Financial Kidnappings.................................9 Investigative Checklist for First Responders.......................12 Nonfamily-Abduction Investigative Checklist.......................14

By ROCIC Publications Specialist Jennifer Adkins Š 2010 ROCIC


Regional Organized Crime Information Center

Special Research Report • TAKEN! Investigating Drug-Related and Financial Kidnappings

Drug-Related Kidnappings


hat is meant by “drug-related” kidnappings varies in different jurisdictions. Some agencies interpret the simple presence of drugs as having relevance, whereas others categorize the relationship more narrowly by the involvement of the victims and suspects in the illegal drug market. Most directly, drugs are related to kidnappings simply because those involved in the drug market are more likely to commit the crimes. Trafficking in illicit drugs tends to correlate with the commission of violent crimes. Reasons for this include: • Competition for drug markets and customers

“DTOs are active in every region of the country and dominate

• Disputes among individuals the illicit drug trade in every area except the Northeast.” involved in the illegal drug market - National Drug Intelligence Center • Tendency toward violence of individuals involved in drug trafficking • Decreased chance of reporting to police because of the victim’s illegal activity

Department’s National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC) in April 2008.

The Situation in the Southwest Currently, Phoenix, Ariz. holds the title as America’s kidnapping capital (second in the world to Mexico City) with an average of 27 kidnappings each month.

Throughout the Southwest, kidnappings are growing as a way to finance Drug Trafficking Organizations (DTOs), a trend spreading throughout the United States. The greater part of these kidnappings is linked to the Mexican drug cartels.

Since 2005, immigrant and drug smugglers have intensified their operations in Phoenix, and they continue to move their operations north. These traffickers kidnap rivals and their family members as a way to collect unpaid debt and make quick money through ransoms.

“Mexican Drug Trafficking Organizations (DTOs) are the most pervasive organizational threat to the United States,” according to a situation report released by the U.S. Justice

The Los Zetas, originally the criminal mercenary army for the Gulf Cartel, are known for trafficking in drugs and weapons. All members are well armed. The group has been linked to monitoring and kidnapping journalists, and the murder of rival gang members and their families. They have also been known to hire members from the Texas Syndicate and MS-13 to carry out contract killings.


Regional Organized Crime Information Center

Special Research Report • TAKEN! Investigating Drug-Related and Financial Kidnappings Ransoms can range from $30,000 to $1 million. Kidnap victims face a range of abuse, including their bodies burned and bones broken. Sometimes they are killed, but this is not the norm. Although the majority of victims are either illegal aliens or involved in the illegal drug market, several innocent victims have been caught in the middle of this deadly crime wave. In December 2008, Felix Batista, former U.S. Army Major and anti-kidnapping consultant for Houston, Texas-based security firm ASI Global, was kidnapped by the Los Zetas, a powerful DTO in Mexico. Batista had helped negotiate the safe return of kidnap victims and the resolution of nearly 100 kidnapping and ransom cases in Mexico. Even closer to home, a towtruck driver was kidnapped by a Mexican enforcer gang in Pearsall, Texas in 2007. The driver had towed a car in which drug traffickers had hidden drug proceeds in a spare tire. The enforcers were offered $15,000 to bring the driver back to Mexico. The driver was tortured and interrogated about the missing spare tire for a week. The driver’s boss was phoned by the kidnappers and told that if he did not return their money, they would cut off the head of the driver.

DTOs are now operating in 195 U.S. cities, according to a U.S. Justice Department’s National Drug Intelligence Center report. In 129 of those cities, law enforcement has determined that those traffickers are directly affiliated with one or more of the four major Mexican drug cartels: Federation Cartel, Gulf Coast Cartel, Juarez Cartel, and Tijuana Cartel. The following are the American cities within the ROCIC region that have been identified in the report. Alabama Albertville Birmingham Decatur Dothan Huntsville Montgomery Arkansas Fayetteville Fort Smith Little Rock Florida Jacksonville Lakeland Miami Orlando Tampa West Palm Beach Georgia Atlanta

North Carolina Asheville Burlington Charlotte Durham Greensboro Hendersonville Raleigh Wilmington Wilson Winston-Salem Oklahoma Oklahoma City Ponca City Tulsa South Carolina Charleston Columbia Florence Greenville Myrtle Beach

Kentucky Lexington Louisville Louisiana Baton Rouge Lafayette New Orleans Shreveport

Tennessee Knoxville Memphis Nashville

Mississippi Hattiesburg Jackson

Washington, D.C.

Virginia Arlington Galax

Texas Austin Alpine Beaumont Big Spring Brownsville Corpus Christi Dallas Eagle Pass Edinburg El Paso Fabens Fort Hancock Fort Stockton Fort Worth Hidalgo Houston Laredo Lubbock McAllen Midland Midway Mission Odessa Pecos Presidio Rio Grande City Roma San Antonio Tyler Waco


Regional Organized Crime Information Center

Special Research Report • TAKEN! Investigating Drug-Related and Financial Kidnappings

Atlanta, Ga.: Hub of DTO Activity

ROCIC Region: Drug-Related Kidnappings

The same violent drug cartels warring in Mexico have established Atlanta as the principal distribution center for the entire eastern United States, according to the NDIC.

While U.S. cities close to the border suffer the most from the cross-border violence and kidnappings, it has extended to mid-level street gangs involved in drug trafficking, and low-level drug dealers.

Drug cartels are lured to Atlanta because the city has access to transportation systems and proximity to major U.S. cities. From the border, drugs are trafficked to Atlanta for storage, and then moved to distribution operations in North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, the MidAtlantic, New York, and New England.

The motives for drug related-kidnappings include: a high ransom, drug debt, competition, and revenge. El Paso, Texas In Sept. 2009, the body of an El Paso, Texas resident, kidnapped from his home, was found in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico with severed arms crossed and placed over a cardboard sign on his chest. The killers also stuffed plastic bags into the victim’s mouth and taped his eyes. The victim had a long criminal record for drug possession and money laundering.

“We know they’re here,” Gwinnett County, Ga. Police Corporal Illana Spellman told USA Today in March 2009, adding that the area’s access to interstate highways was a major lure. “Geographically, it is set up perfectly for these kinds of activities.” In 2009, more than $30 million in drug money was intercepted in Atlanta, compared to $19 million in Los Angeles, Calif. and $18 million in Chicago, Ill. In 2008, federal drug authorities seized more drug-related cash in Atlanta, Ga. (about $70 million) than any other region in the country, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

Stuart, Florida In September 2009, a Stuart, Fla. resident kidnapped and beat a woman during a drug deal. The victim met the suspect in a parking lot to conduct a drug deal. The suspect drove off with her in the car and repeatedly beat her. The victim jumped out of the moving car a short time later. The suspect was arrested on armed kidnapping and armed robbery charges.

Therefore it is no surprise that the drug violence from the border has followed the drug trafficking routes throughout Georgia.

Skiatook, Oklahoma On Jan. 26, 2009, a Skiatook, Okla. car dealer was charged with kidnapping, robbery by force, aggravated assault and battery, and possession of marijuana after he kidnapped his stepson because he believed his stepson worked for the DEA. The suspect had shipped marijuana from Mexico to Oklahoma.

For example, in July 2009, a Rhode Island man owed $300,000 to Atlanta-based traffickers and was found chained to a wall in the basement of a Lilburn, Ga. residence. The man had been blindfolded, gagged, and beaten. Three Mexican nationals fled the house when federal investigators arrived.

New Orleans, Louisiana On April 19, 2009, two teenagers were kidnapped, held for a $10,000 ransom, and killed in New Orleans, La. The suspects were convicted of aggravated kidnapping, first-degree murder, home invasion, and illegal possession of a firearm while in possession of drugs.

Last year, another man was kidnapped in Gwinnett County for non-payment of drug proceeds. When traffickers went to pick up what they thought was a $2 million ransom, shots were exchanged between traffickers and police who were working with the victim’s family.


Regional Organized Crime Information Center

Special Research Report • TAKEN! Investigating Drug-Related and Financial Kidnappings Investigators should also monitor the demands of the kidnappers. It will help officers get more information on the family, and it will help officers identify the kidnapper’s motives.

Investigating a Drug-Related Kidnapping Steps in investigating a drug-related kidnapping: 1.) Identify the kidnapper’s motives

Next, detectives can use the information developed from the demands to develop a tactic for rescue. Whatever the motives are, experts should be brought in to help strategize a rescue mission. For example, if the kidnapping is narcotics-based, experts should be conferred who specialize in drug-smuggling. If organized criminal gangs are involved, experts should be brought in who specialize in violent crime. Keep in mind that ransom drops and meets are tactically the most dangerous.

2.) Get as much information from the victim’s family as possible 3.) Check federal databases on reporting parties, victim, suspects 4.) Monitor kidnapper’s demands 5.) Bring in the experts 6.) Figure out prosecution strategies In a drug-related kidnapping, the most imperative steps in the investigation are identifying the kidnapper’s motives, and getting as much information from the victim’s family as possible.

Tip: Look at recent home-invasion cases in your area. Approximately threequarters of the home-invasion cases in Phoenix are associated with drug-related kidnapping cases. These kidnappers are involved in drug trafficking and human smuggling.

Because the victims are often involved in criminal activity, the victim’s family may be hesitant in giving details about the kidnapping. They will usually wait until they are threatened by the kidnappers or feel vulnerable before reporting to police.

The people involved in these crimes are the same people committing home invasions because they are looking for something, i.e., human cargo, drugs, and money. Subsequently, victims are kidnapped and held for extortion, or more money.

Detectives should investigate the reporting parties as much as they investigate the victim and suspects. Investigators should also check federal databases to see if any of the reporting parties are already under investigation.

Throughout the investigation, be aware of the prosecution strategies. The U.S. Attorney’s Office has historically been able to charge individuals involved in home-invasion robberies with an array of federal charges, such as illegal possession of firearms and drug trafficking offenses.

ROCIC members can also log into ROCIC’s secure Intranet Web site to find information and resources on missing persons and kidnap suspects, or call ROCIC’s Criminal Intelligence Unit: 1-800-238-7985. If a kidnapping is thought to involve immigrant-smuggling in some way, police have been asked to call the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement instead of the FBI - the agency that traditionally handles kidnappings (Phoenix New Times).

For example, a couple was held captive and extensively tortured in their Phoenix residence. Police promised one of the suspects not to charge him with kidnapping if he gave them the location of the victims. The suspect was instead charged with first-degree burglary, theft by extortion, armed robbery, and three counts of aggravated assault.


Regional Organized Crime Information Center

Special Research Report • TAKEN! Investigating Drug-Related and Financial Kidnappings

Developing an Anti-Kidnapping Unit Case Study: Home Invasion Kidnapping Enforcement Unit, Phoenix, Ariz. With a rampant rise in violence from the cross-border kidnapping gangs, Lt. Lauri Burgett, head of Phoenix Police Department’s Home Invasion Kidnapping Enforcement Unit (HIKE), said the department had to make drugs and human smuggling a priority. The Phoenix P.D. reviewed the trends in criminal activity in their city for the past four years before beginning HIKE. They even invited a team to assess the history of their kidnapping and home invasion crimes. In 2009, the Phoenix P.D. launched HIKE, a 10-man anti-kidnapping task force, to specifically combat crossborder kidnapping rings. Originally part of Phoenix P.D.’s Violent Crimes Bureau, HIKE is now part of the Narcotics Unit and has a high success rate in recovering kidnap victims. There are an estimated 200 to 250 Mexican nationals serving time in the Arizona Department of Corrections for these crimes.

Members of HIKE apprehend a kidnapper, 2009

Initial steps in creating an anti-kidnapping task force: 1) Research: Decide if this is a priority for the resources of your department. 2) Personnel: What kind of people do you want on your team? The unit will need people who understand surveillance, human smuggling, drug smuggling, and violent crime.

The success of HIKE is due to the strong law enforcement and criminal justice partnerships the department has developed throughout the state. HIKE consists of supervisors and detectives from the Robbery, Assaults, and Document Crimes Units within the Phoenix Police Department. In addition, agents from the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) are part of the team. HIKE is also partnered with the FBI Violent Street Gang Task Force to deal with gang violence influenced by border violence. Some kidnapping cases take up to a week and 60 officers to resolve, and resources dwindle quickly. Lt. Burgett said an anti-kidnapping unit has to be capable of dealing with fast-moving investigations, and the personnel must understand the sense of urgency that accompanies each case. The people involved in HIKE are expert negotiators and investigators, and many of them have a military background.

3) Briefings and Debriefings: Work in communication with all your partners in the development of the unit. As an investigative unit, you lead the task force, but must bring in other experts. Components of an anti-kidnapping task force: 1) Intelligence, including criminal analysts 2) Tactical Standpoint, including surveillance operations and rescue strategists 3) Prosecution Strategies, including the cooperation of all partnerships


Regional Organized Crime Information Center

Special Research Report • TAKEN! Investigating Drug-Related and Financial Kidnappings

Financial Kidnappings n a financial kidnapping, criminals want to earn easy money in the shortest possible time. Some victims are picked at random, such as in basic and express kidnappings, while more affluent targets are stalked beforehand.


Information Center reported a kidnapping rate of 6.7 per 100,000 people. Today, children are not the primary targets of those who kidnap for ransom, possibly because it brings too much media attention. Kidnappers also have plenty of adult targets, i.e. tourists, businessmen, and wealthy families.

The targets of financial kidnappings are chosen for the real or perceived benefit they afford the kidnapper. Financial kidnappings that occur in the United States are usually connected to other ongoing criminal activity, dominantly drugrelated crimes.

The response and reaction of investigators when a kidnapping is reported is critical. Primary objectives are:

In July 2009, requests for bulletproof cars, trucks, and SUVS have skyrocketed as a result of kidnappings-for-ransom, reported Texas Armoring Corporation, the world leader in lightweight armored passenger vehicles based in San Antonio, Texas.

1) the preservation of the life of the victim 2) the safe return of the victim 3) the protection of the person who delivers the ransom Secondary objectives are:

“From our experience, kidnapping-for-ransom is at an all-time high. It’s literally a pandemic, and with the current financial crisis, even criminals are getting desperate. Business owners, professionals, political figures, religious leaders, executives, and their families have all become targets and no one feels safe,” said TAC President Trent Kimball.

1) the arrest of the kidnappers 2) securing evidence 3) the recovery of the ransom Like all kidnappings, the most dangerous time for the target is during the initial kidnapping. However, this period also offers the best chance for escape. After the kidnapper receives the money, the immediate escape window is closed.

“Unfortunately, entrepreneurial criminals throughout the world have realized that kidnapping-for-ransom is a lucrative business, especially in the midst of a chaotic financial crisis.” Many kidnapping cases are never reported. In cases of kidnapping-for-ransom, families of victims and their captors typically reach a ransom settlement and arrange for the exchange of cash for the kidnapped victim. According to a 2009 Corporate Risk International report, 75 percent of kidnappings go unreported. In 2008, the National Crime


Regional Organized Crime Information Center

Special Research Report • TAKEN! Investigating Drug-Related and Financial Kidnappings

Common Reasons for Kidnapping: • Demand for money • Economic disparity • Gain technology, trade secrets • Blackmail • Media attention • Religious or belief system • Human trafficking Approximately 88 percent of financial kidnapping cases involve an accomplice. The financial kidnapper’s decision to engage an accomplice to commit his crime is also frequently the source of his downfall. In 56 percent of these cases, the accomplice’s testimony was a significant factor in prosecuting the original kidnapper.

Initial Response to a Financial Kidnapping

The investigation of financial kidnappings begins with the determination that a kidnapping has, in fact, occurred. It is not unreasonable to request verification that the victim is actually being held. More often than not, this request will be met. If it is not, consider that the victim is already harmed or that it is a fake kidnapping. If no request for verification is made, the victim could be dispatched, harmed, or killed as a matter of convenience to the kidnappers.

[See: investigative checklist for first responders, p. 12]

Crisis Negotiation Teams A kidnapping severely challenges the law enforcement agency responsible for successfully resolving the situation. In such a difficult situation, agencies can turn to an effective aid – crisis negotiation teams.

Speaking to the kidnappers on the phone also keeps a line of communication open, which is essential to a subsequent investigation. Also, if the verification of the victim is accomplished with a camera or videotape, request the victim hold a newspaper with the date. This presents various opportunities to gather information, as well as evidence for future prosecution.

These teams benefit the on-scene commander, investigative personnel, and the victim’s family. One of the crisis negotiation team’s primary responsibilities in any critical situation is to support the overall investigative effort. In the case of a kidnapping, the crisis negotiation team works closely with the victim family members. The team uses negotiation training to develop strategies to reduce the subject’s expectations, to respond to threats and demands, and, most important, to seek the safe return of the victim. Negotiators can address the questions of investigators, as well as the victim’s family.

The decision to pay ransom is strictly up to the family or business. If the decision to pay is made, law enforcement can assign a tactic or surveillance operation team to guard the drop site. However, officers must always be aware that organized criminals may be using countersurveillance. Use criminal analysts to help develop investigative strategies, including undercover operation strategies, and to develop an appropriate prosecution strategy.

Crisis negotiation team members will establish a negotiation operations center on site. Other members of the team will begin to


Regional Organized Crime Information Center

Special Research Report • TAKEN! Investigating Drug-Related and Financial Kidnappings set up equipment designed to capture future communication with the kidnappers.

For law enforcement, costs include the costs of manpower and surveillance equipment, among others. For corporations and negotiation teams, ransom costs are coupled with the cost of security consultants, as well as medical, travel, legal, and accommodation expenses. If any organization mishandles a kidnapping case, the organization could also face expensive litigation.

Criteria for FBI Involvement Following the historic Lindbergh baby kidnapping in 1932, Congress passed a federal kidnapping statute known as the Federal Kidnapping Act or Lindbergh Law, making it a crime to kidnap and transport a victim from one state to another or to a foreign country, with the exception of a minor abducted by his or her parent. The law provides that if the victim is not released within 24 hours after being kidnapped, it is presumed the victim has been transported in interstate or foreign commerce. Once kidnappers have crossed state lines with their victim, federal authorities are allowed to step in and pursue them. The theory is that state and local law enforcement officers cannot effectively pursue kidnappers across state lines.

ROCIC Region: Financial Kidnappings

Several states have implemented “Little Lindbergh” laws, covering acts of kidnapping that do not cross state lines. In jurisdictions that authorize the death penalty, a kidnapper is charged with a capital offense if the kidnapping results in death.

Basic Kidnapping Basic kidnapping is the most common form of kidnapping. Kidnappers target local businessmen and their families, who do not have sufficient money to spend on security. Generally the ransom is easy for the family or company to pay.

The Lindbergh law was later amended to allow the FBI to investigate any kidnapping after 24 hours, even within state lines. It also gave the FBI jurisdiction to immediately investigate any reported mysterious disappearance of kidnapping involving a child age 12 or younger. There does not need to be a ransom demand and the child does not have to cross state lines or be missing 24 hours (

Trussville, Alabama On Feb. 17, 2009, a woman was arrested for kidnapping the wife and two children (5-yearold girl and 12-year-old boy) of a Trussville, Ala. man with whom she was involved in a civil litigation. The suspect hit the boy in the head with a hammer and bound all victims with tiewraps, duct tape, and nylon tow straps.

The Cost of Kidnapping Kidnapping costs can range from a few thousand dollars to several million dollars. Financial kidnappings cost the global economy more than $500 million a year in ransoms with 30,000 victims worldwide. However, because the majority of these incidents go unreported, these statistics are estimates.

Inside the suspect’s vehicle were several generic ransom notes and several pairs of dirty women’s panties (some with blood). All of the panties were submitted to the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences for DNA evidence along with her DNA. The suspect was charged with burglary, kidnapping, assault, and sex abuse, all in the first degree.

The cost of kidnapping goes beyond ransom.


Regional Organized Crime Information Center

Special Research Report • Investigating Drug-Related and Financial Kidnappings During this time, local police were notified by Connecticut police, as well as the female victim who was dropped off. Officers responded to the scene and through investigation, the suspects were located and arrested. During the interviews, the suspects admitted to robbing the Bank of Valdosta and Dominos Pizza in Valdosta. They also admitted to a bank robbery in Hoboken, Ga.

Tiger Kidnapping Named for the predatory stalking beforehand and the speed at which these crimes occur, tiger kidnappings involve forcing a victim to take part in a robbery. The rise of tiger kidnappings with the decline in the economy poses as a particular concern to U.S. business communities. However, tiger kidnappings are more common in the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Belgium.

Express Kidnapping Under normal conditions in an express kidnapping, a victim is taken and forced to withdraw their own ransom from a bank or ATM, then released after all their possessions are stolen. Express kidnappings are popular in urban areas, due to the number of ATMs.

Tiger kidnappers coerce an employee to rob their corporate employers by holding their family hostage. For example, a child can be taken hostage to force a family member to open a safe. Tiger kidnapping gangs use three to 20 members to plan and participate in the kidnapping, as well as the actual robbery. Most targets are employees of financial institutions, which if hit could suffer a loss of as much as two percent in stock value. This may cause tension between business and investigators, especially if the media is covering the case. If the business or premises are closed or the personnel have to be called in as prosecution witnesses, there will be a loss of business, which will add to this tension.

Some express kidnappings can last up to several days so that the kidnappers can empty the victim’s bank account and get around the oneday withdrawal limit. Because of individual withdrawal limits and security features surrounding ATMs, the kidnappers must hit several ATMs, sometimes as many as five or six in an hour. Gangs or organized criminal groups may hold their victim in the trunk of a car, while large amounts are drawn out of their checking account.

Valdosta, Georgia On June 2, 2008, three suspects were arrested in Valdosta, Ga. for a home invasion and kidnapping. They were familiar with the victims and their families and were going to extort money from one of their fathers who lives in Pawcatuck, Conn.

Express kidnappings can also easily turn into a basic kidnapping for ransom if the victim has significant financial assets. Occasionally, an express kidnapping group will sell a high-value victim to a more professional kidnapping gang. Express kidnappers benefit by a rapid return of revenue and a ransom quickly paid. The short time the victim is held reduces law enforcement efforts to track them down.

During the home invasion, one of the suspects entered the residence under the pretense of needing to talk to a friend. As she entered, the other suspects forced their way into the residence. They forcibly kidnapped the female victim and drove her to a remote area to drop off.

However, because these kidnappers are usually inexperienced, this increases the likelihood that the victim will suffer physical harm or be killed immediately afterward, especially if something causes the kidnappers to panic. Female victims also have a higher risk of being sexually assaulted by express kidnappers.

The suspect and the male victim then called his father for a ransom as instructed by the other suspects. The suspect and victim drove to the bank to see if the money was transferred. The victim was told he would be under constant surveillance by the suspects.



Regional Organized Crime Information Center

Special Research Report • Investigating Drug-Related and Financial Kidnappings Hoover, Alabama On Dec. 5, 2002, a woman was kidnapped, sexually assaulted, and robbed in Hoover, Ala.

Virtual Kidnapping In a virtual kidnapping, the victim is not really kidnapped. However, the criminals seek to convince a victim’s family that the person is kidnapped and use threats to coerce the family to make a ransom faster.

The victim was approached in the parking lot of her apartment building by two male suspects armed with handguns.

The virtual kidnappers may wait until the victim is out of town or somehow unreachable and will then contact the victim’s family with an immediate ransom demand. Due to the need for speedy deliveries, the ransom demand will usually be relatively small.

The victim was forced into the suspect vehicle and driven to several ATMs and forced to withdraw money. The suspects and the victim then returned to the apartment where the victim was subsequently sexually assaulted by one of the suspects.

It is common for virtual kidnappers to target families of illegal immigrants, such as ones crossing the border from Mexico to Texas, Arizona, and California. While the immigrant is traveling, they are cut off from communicating with their families. The families in America are then contacted by the criminals and a ransom demand is made. One case per week is reported to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Fingerprints were collected and have been submitted into the AFIS system several times since the crime occurred with no hits, leading investigators to believe the suspects may not be from Alabama. There is also DNA evidence.

High Net Worth Individual Kidnapping A high net worth individual (HNWI) is typically described as holding financial assets in excess of $1 million. HNWI are typically kidnapped overseas and held for ransom against their U.S. corporation. According to Insite Security, a company that specializes in protecting its HNWI clients from becoming international hostages, one to six Americans daily are held for ransom as an international hostage.

Miami, Florida In April 2009, a Miami mother and her boyfriend orchestrated the kidnapping of her teenage son after she found out her ex-husband had sold his business for a large sum of money. The suspect took her son to a south Florida Walmart to buy an iPhone. While she was inside, her masked boyfriend entered the car and covered the teenager’s eyes with thick tape. They drove to the boyfriend’s trailer, where the son was tied to a chair with shrink wrap and tape.

Most HNWIs have some form of kidnapping insurance. Most policies are written to negotiate the lowest fee possible to return a kidnap victim.

The boyfriend called the victim’s father and threatened to burn his son with a blowtorch unless he paid them $50,000. The mother confirmed that her son was being burnt.

Generally in a HNWI kidnapping case, the victim is studied for some time prior to the kidnapping. Their security procedures and personal habits are noted by the kidnappers. A ransom demand is made to the family of the victim and a negotiation process usually occurs. The victim is generally released unharmed if the ransom is paid, unlike express kidnappings.

The father contacted the police and investigators were able to track the location of the trailer and rescue the son and mother. It was discovered in an interview with the boyfriend that the mother was involved. They both face a life sentence if convicted.



Regional Organized Crime Information Center

Special Research Report • TAKEN! Investigating Drug-Related and Financial Kidnappings

Investigative Checklist for First Responders National Center for Missing and Exploited Children This checklist from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children is meant to provide a framework of actions, considerations, and activities that could assist in conducting a kidnapping investigation. Some steps will be inapplicable, as they are applied to child abduction cases only. First Responder [ ] If circumstances warrant, consider activating patrolvehicle-mounted video camera when approaching the scene to record vehicles, people, and anything else of note for later investigative review. [ ] Interview parent(s)/guardian(s)/person who made the initial report. [ ] Confirm the child is in fact missing. [ ] Verify the child’s custody status. [ ] Identify the circumstances of the disappearance. [ ] Determine when, where, and by whom the missing child was last seen. [ ] Interview the individuals who last had contact with the child. [ ] Identify the child’s zone of safety for his or her age and developmental stage. [ ] Based on the available information, make an initial determination of the type of incident whether non-family abduction; family abduction; runaway; or lost, injured, or otherwise missing. [ ] Obtain a detailed description of the missing child, abductor, and any vehicles used. [ ] Secure photographs/videotapes of the missing child/ abductor. [ ] Evaluate whether the circumstances of the child’s disappearance meet AMBER Alert criteria and/or other immediate community-notification protocol. Discuss plan activation with supervisor. [ ] Relay detailed descriptive information to communications unit for broadcast updates. [ ] Determine need for additional personnel including investigative and supervisory staff. [ ] Brief and bring up-to-date all additional responding personnel. [ ] Identify and separately interview everyone at the scene. Make sure their interview and identifying information is properly recorded. To aid in this process, if possible, take pictures or record video images of everyone present. Video cameras affixed to patrol vehicles may be helpful with this task.

[ ] Note name, address, home/business telephone numbers of each person. [ ] Determine each person’s relationship to the missing child. [ ] Note information each person may have about the child’s disappearance. [ ] Determine when/where each person last saw the child. [ ] Ask each one, “What do you think happened to the child?” [ ] Obtain names/addresses/telephone numbers of the child’s friends/associates and other relatives and friends of the family. [ ] Continue to keep communications unit apprised of all appropriate developing information for broadcast updates. [ ] Obtain and note permission to search home or building where incident took place. [ ] Conduct an immediate, thorough search of the missing child’s home, even if the child was reported missing from a different location. [ ] Seal/protect scene and area of the child’s home (including the child’s personal articles such as hairbrush, diary, photographs, and items with the child’s fingerprints/ footprints/teeth impressions) so evidence is not destroyed during or after the initial search and to help ensure items which could help in the search for and/or to identify the child are preserved. Determine if any of the child’s personal items are missing. If possible, photograph/videotape these areas. [ ] Evaluate the contents and appearance of the child’s room/residence. [ ] Inquire if the child has access to the Internet and evaluate its role in the disappearance. [ ] Ascertain if the child has a cellular telephone or other electronic communication device. [ ] Extend search to surrounding areas including vehicles and other places of concealment. [ ] Treat areas of interest as potential crime scenes. [ ] Determine if surveillance or security cameras in the vicinity may have captured information about the child’s disappearance. [ ] Interview other family members, friends/associates of the child, and friends of the family to determine [ ] When each last saw the child. [ ] What they think happened to the child. [ ] Review sex-offender registries to determine if



Regional Organized Crime Information Center

Special Research Report • TAKEN! Investigating Drug-Related and Financial Kidnappings

Investigative Checklist for First Responders National Center for Missing and Exploited Children [ ] Verify all required notifications are made.

individuals designated as sexual predators live, work, or might otherwise be associated with the area of the child’s disappearance.

[ ] Ensure all agency policies and procedures are in compliance.

[ ] Ensure information regarding the missing child is entered into the National Crime Information

[ ] Be available to make any decisions or determinations as they develop.

Center’s (NCIC) Missing Person File within two hours of report receipt and any information about a suspected abductor is entered into the NCIC Wanted Person File. (Carefully review NCIC categories before entering the case, and be sure to use the Child-Abduction flag whenever possible.)

[ ] Use media including radio, television, and newspapers to assist in the search throughout the duration of the case. Investigative Officer [ ] Obtain briefing from the first responding officer and other on-scene personnel.

[ ] Prepare flier/bulletin with the child/abductor’s photograph and descriptive information. Distribute in appropriate geographic regions.

[ ] Verify the accuracy of all descriptive information and other details developed during the preliminary investigation.

[ ] Prepare reports/make all required notifications.

[ ] Initiate a neighborhood canvass using a standardized questionnaire.

Supervisory Officer

[ ] Obtain a brief, recent history of family dynamics.

[ ] Obtain briefing and written reports from the first responding officer and other personnel at the scene.

[ ] Correct and investigate the reasons for conflicting information offered by witnesses and other individuals.

[ ] Decide if circumstances of the child’s disappearance meet the protocol in place for activation of an AMBER Alert and/or other immediate community-notification systems.

[ ] Collect article(s) of the child’s clothing for scent-tracking purposes.

[ ] Determine if additional personnel are needed to assist in the investigation. [ ] Establish a command post away from the child’s residence.

[ ] Review and evaluate all available information and evidence collected. [ ] Secure the child’s latest medical and dental records.

[ ] State Police.

[ ] Contact landfill management and request they segregate garbage and dumping containers from key investigative areas in cases where it is suspected there may be imminent danger to the missing child.

[ ] Missing-Children Clearinghouse.

[ ] Develop and execute an investigative plan.

[ ] FBI.

[ ] Conduct a criminal-history check on all principal suspects and participants in the investigation.

[ ] Determine if additional assistance is necessary from

[ ] Specialized Units. [ ] Victim-Witness Services. [ ] NCMEC’s Project ALERT/Team Adam. [ ] Confirm all the required resources, equipment, and assistance necessary to conduct an efficient investigation have been requested and expedite their availability. [ ] Ensure coordination/cooperation among all lawenforcement personnel involved in the investigation and search effort.

[ ] Determine what additional resources and specialized services are required. [ ] Ensure details of the case have been reported to NCMEC. [ ] Prepare and update bulletins for local law-enforcement agencies, missing-children clearinghouse(s), the FBI, and other appropriate agencies. [ ] Establish a telephone hotline for receipt of tips and leads. [ ] Establish a leads-management system to prioritize leads and help ensure each one is reviewed and followed up on.



Regional Organized Crime Information Center

Special Research Report • TAKEN! Investigating Drug-Related and Financial Kidnappings

Nonfamily-Abduction Investigative Checklist National Center for Missing and Exploited Children [ ] Assign an officer to victim’s residence with the ability to record and “trap and trace” all incoming calls. Consider setting up a separate telephone line or cellular telephone for agency use. [ ] Conduct neighborhood/vehicle canvass. [ ] Compile list of known sex offenders in the region. [ ] Develop profile of possible abductor.

[ ] Review all photographs and videotapes. [ ] Reexamine all physical evidence collected. [ ] Determine if case file contains deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) evidence from child and biological parent(s). [ ] Review child-protective-agency records for reports of sexual exploitation/ abuse about the child. [ ] Develop timelines and other visual exhibits.

[ ] Consider use of polygraph for parents/guardians and other key individuals.

[ ] Reinterview key individuals.

[ ] In cases of infant abduction, investigate claims of home births made in that area.

[ ] Interview individuals such as delivery personnel; employees of gas, water, electric, and cable companies; taxi drivers; post-office personnel; and garbage handlers.

[ ] Fully load National Crime Information Center (NCIC) Missing Person File within two hours of report receipt (involuntary category) with complete descriptive information, medical information, dental information, and use the ChildAbduction (“CA”) flag as described in “Appendix B: NCIC Child-Abduction Flag” on page 215. [ ] Use Nlets and other information systems to alert local, state, regional, and federal law-enforcement agencies. [ ] Review records found in various law-enforcement databases, including Nlets, for attempted abductions with case similarities. [ ] Provide support for family through nonprofit, missingchildren organization. Prolonged Investigation [ ] Reread all reports and transcripts of interviews. [ ] Revisit the crime scene. [ ] Review all potential witness/suspect information obtained in the initial investigation and consider background checks for anyone identified in the investigation.

[ ] Critique results of the ongoing investigation with appropriate investigative resources. [ ] Arrange for periodic media coverage. [ ] Use rewards and crime-stopper programs. [ ] Contact NCMEC for photo dissemination, ageprogression, and other case assistance. [ ] Update NCIC Missing Person File information as necessary. Recovery/Case Closure [ ] Arrange for a comprehensive physical examination of the victim. [ ] Conduct a careful interview of the child, document the results of the interview, and involve all appropriate agencies. [ ] Provide effective reunification techniques. [ ] Cancel alarms and remove case from NCIC and other information systems. [ ] Perform constructive post-case critique.



Regional Organized Crime Information Center

Special Research Report • TAKEN! Investigating Drug-Related and Financial Kidnappings

Sources of Information Lt. Lori Burgett, Head of Phoenix, Ariz. Police Department’s Home Invasion Kidnapping Enforcement Unit.

Collom, Lindsey. “Police fear violence from border-related kidnappings.” Arizona Republic. 26 Feb. 2008.

ecutors accept drug and burglary charges in Algiers kidnapping case.” 22 June 2009.

ABC. “Police: Stuart man kidnapped woman during drug deal.” 11 Sept. 2009. www.wpbf. com.

Concannon, Fain, Fain. “Kidnapping: an investigator’s guide to profiling.” Elsevier, Inc. 2008.

New York Times. “Kidnappings in Mexico send shivers across border.” 4 Jan. 2009.

AllBusiness. “Seventeen people indicted in connection with kidnappings, murders.” City News Service. 13 Aug. 2009.

Cosmoloan. “5 kidnap-for-ransom stories.” International Economy. June 2009. www.

NowPublic. “Drug gang and corrupted police likely behind U.S. kidnapping.” 18 Dec. 2008.

FBI. “Investigative Programs; Critical Incident Response Group.”

OJJDP Report. “Current Federal Responses to International Parental Kidnapping.” April 1999.

Allen, Ernie. “Child abductions: globally, nationally and along the U.S./Mexico border.” NCMEC. 31 Aug. 2009. AndhraNews. “Texas Armoring says global financial crisis fuels kidnapping-for-ransom pandemic.” July 2009. Archibold, Randal. “Home invasions and kidnappings from the Mexican drug war explode into the U.S.” New York Times. 31 March 2009.

Fennelly, Lawrence J. “Handbook of Loss Prevention, and Crime Prevention.” Elsevier, Inc. Burlington, Mass. 2004. Gauntt, Josh. “Local law enforcement reaction to Jaycee Dugard kidnapping case.” News Channel 7. 2 Sept. 2009. www.wjhg. com.

Bigheart Times. “Car dealer charged with kidnapping, drug distribution.” 26 Jan. 2009.

Gibson, Dave. “Kidnapping, torture now coming to a neighborhood near you...Mexican drug cartels now in the U.S.” American Chronicle. 14 Jan. 2009. www.freepublic. com.

Billeaud, Jacques. “Virtual kidnappers target immigrant families.” Associated Press. 24 Sept. 2008.

Gonzalez, Nathan. “Chandler men arrested on kidnapping, drug charges.” Arizona Republic. 1 Sept. 2009.

Billeaud, Jacques. “Phoenix’s kidnappings on track to decrease modestly in 2009, decline attributed to enforcement.” 27 Dec. 2009.

GSN: Government Security News. June 2009.

Bolz, Dudonis, Schulz. “The counterterrorism handbook: tactics, procedures, and techniques.” 2001. Boston NPR News Service. “Drug war without borders.” 16 Feb. 2009. www. Breaking News 24/7. “Immigrant who was held hostage gets four years in prison for role distributing cocaine in Ga.” 5 May 2009. Chrabot, Miller. “Kidnapping investigations: enhancing the flow of information.” FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin. July 2004. CBS. “Drug cartels flex muscle in southwest.” 12 Nov. 2009. Cisternas, Carlos. “Kidnapped American oil worker found dead in Ecuador jungle.” 1 Feb. 2001. CNN. “Lou Dobbs Tonight.” Transcripts. 20 Oct. 2008. CNN. “Torture a hallmark of Phoenix’s drug kidnappings.” 19 May 2009.

OJJDP. “Investigative checklist for first responders.” 2009. ONDCP. “Drug-related crime factsheet.” March 2000. Phoenix New Times. “Phoenix kidnappings: FBI’s role minimal in immigration-related cases.” 2 April 2009. www.phoenixnewtimes. com. PRNewswire. “Sion Resources names ‘tiger kidnaping’ biggest illegal growth industry -up 300%.” 2010. Reuters. “Insite Security launches kidnapping resolution practice.” 27 July 2009. www. ROCIC Publications Web site. Bulletin Articles.

Harris, Jack F. United States Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs transcript. 20 April 2009. hsgac.

Steve Fry Capital-Journal. “Skinner faces drug, kidnapping charges.” Topeka CapitalJournal. 2 Nov. 2003.

Hicky, Eric. “Encyclopedia of murder and violent crime.” Sage Publications. 2003.

Stratfor Global Intelligence. “Mexico: A new twist on the growing kidnapping problem.” 16 Dec. 2008.

History International. “Kidnappings in Mexico.” Sept. 2008. “Hostage Negotiation Study Guide 2010.” Houston, Daniel. “Kidnap, ransom, and extortion: crisis management introduction.” McCart Group. 14 July 2008. KCEN-TV. 2009 El Paso, Texas kidnapping. KXII-TV. “Denison man facing rape, kidnapping, drug charges found dead.” KXII-TV. 10 Aug. 2009. National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. National Geographic Channel. “Narco State.” 2009. New Orleans Metro Real-Time News. “Pros-

Tamayo, Juan. “U.S. mobilized hostage rescue.” 12 March 2001. ThreatRate Risk Management. “Types of kidnappings.” 2009. USA Today. “Many drug kidnappings go under the radar.” Associated Press. 4 Sept. 2007. USA Today. “Mexican cartels plague Atlanta.” 9 March 2009. Watson, Inc. “Decades of federal prison for kidnapping drug dealers.” RomeNews. 7 July 2009. Webster, Michael. “Seeping U.S. indictments brought against Mexican Drug Cartels: But few in custody.” Syndicated Investigative. 24 Aug. 2009.



Special Research Reports by ROCIC Publications Reference ROCIC reports in bold for more information on groups mentioned in this report. Accessible to RISS member agencies on the ROCIC secure Intranet Web site. Complete listing of ROCIC Bulletins, Special Research Reports, User’s Guides, and Training Conference Reports at •


Hispanic Counterfeit Check Fraud

• NMVTIS: New Resource for Recovering Stolen Vehicles

• RISSGang Resource Guide

• ROCIC Services Resource Guide

• Pandemic: How Law Enforcement Can Fight the Upcoming Global Plague

• Jihad: The History of Islamic Terrorism

Media Relations: Maximizing Law Enforcement’s Positive Image

• Moorish Nation: Sovereign Citizen Movement • ROCIC Services Resource Guide: What Can ROCIC Do For You? • Prescription Drug Abuse: Unsafe, Illegal, and Escalating • Moonshine: On the Rise? •

ROCIC Gang Report 2009

• Suicide Bombers: Law Enforcement Preparing for the Worst Scenario • 287(g) Immigration Authority for State and Local Agencies • Gang Prevention Programs: Law Enforcement and Community Working Together •

U.S.-Mexican Border Violence

• Genuine or Fake? Law Enforcement Guide to Counterfeit Merchandise

• DXM: Teens Abusing Cough Medicine Risk Brain Damage, Death

• Auto Theft in the 21st Century

• RISS Activity Report for G-8 Summit

• Inside the Infamous Tennessee Pot Cave

• Mail Center Security

• Crowd Control: Dynamics, Psychology, Law Enforcement Tactics

• Safety & Security for Electrical Infrastructure: Protecting Law Enforcement and the Public in Emergency Situations

• Jamaat ul-Fuqra: Gilani Followers Conducting Paramilitary Training in U.S. •

Khat: Trafficking in Foreign Plant Linked to Terrorist Financing

• Active Shooter: Protecting the Lives of Innocents in Shooting Situations • Check 21: New Banking Technology Challenges Law Enforcement • ICE: Crystal Methamphetamine: Imported HighPurity Meth Replacing Domestic Lab Output • Meth Lab Safety Issues: How to Protect Law Enforcement, First Responders, and the General Public from the Dangers of Clandestine Methamphetamine Labs

• National Socialist Movement and the Neo-Nazi Threat in America: NSM Hate Group Growing in Popularity

• CERT (Community Emergency Response Team): Civilian Support for First Responders

Law Enforcement Guide to Dogfighting

• Indoor Marijuana Grows • New Trends in Drug Abuse: Fentanyl, Cheese, Meth Labs, Flavored Meth, Marijuana Gumballs, Chronic Candy, Budder, Popcorn, Syrup, Cocaine ROCIC has been serving its criminal justice members since 1973, and served as the prototype for the modern RISS (Regional Information Sharing Systems) Centers. ROCIC serves more than 180,000 sworn personnel in over 2,000 criminal justice agencies located in 14 southeastern and southwestern states, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

• Indicators of Terrorist Activity: Stopping the Next Attack in the Planning Stages

• The International Driver’s Permit and the Myth of the International Driver’s License

• Cargo Theft

• Interpol: How the International Policing Organization Can Benefit Local Law Enforcement

Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13): Violent Street Gang with Military Background

• Internet Fraud: Techniques Used to Scam Online Consumers

• Terrorism Threat Assessment for Large Facilities

• School Administrators Guide to Gang Prevention and Intervention

• Online Communities Abused by Predators, Gangs

• Get Smart! with Intelligence-Led Policing • Contraband Cigarettes

• Violence Against Law Enforcement: Law Enforcement Officers Murdered, Accidentally Killed, Assaulted in the Line of Duty

Taxing Illegal Drugs: States Attacking Profit Motive of Dealers

• Diplomatic Immunity: Rules of Engagement for Law Enforcement

ROCIC provides a variety of services, free of charge, to its criminal justice member agencies: • Centralized law enforcement databases with connectivity among law enforcement agencies and the RISS Centers using the RISS Nationwide Intelligence Network. • Analytical processing of criminal intelligence, including phone tolls and document sorts

• Crisis Response Report: Terrorist Attacks & Natural Disasters • Eco Terrorism: Extremists Pose Domestic Threat • Cold Case Units: Turning up the Heat • Gypsies and Travelers • User’s Guide to ATIX: Automated Trusted Information Exchange • DNA: Law Enforcement’s New Investigative Tool • False ID: National Security Threat • Salvia Divinorum: Herbal Hallucinogen Raises Law Enforcement Concerns • Smallpox: The Deadly Virus • Human Trafficking: International Criminal Trade in Modern Slavery • Network Security: Safeguarding Systems Against the Latest Threats • Dirty Bombs: Radiological Dispersion Devices • Ethics in Law Enforcement • Law Enforcement Officers and Safety • Loaning of specialized, high‑tech surveillance equipment and vehicles • Publications, including criminal intelligence bulletin • Specialized training and membership & information exchange • Use of investigative funds • On‑site personal assistance enforcement coordinators



© 2010 ROCIC • This publication was supported by Grant No. 2008‑RS‑CX‑K005, awarded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The Office of Justice Programs also coordinates the activities of the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Institute of Justice, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency, and the Office for Victims of Crime. This document was prepared under the leadership, guidance and funding of the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice in collaboration with the Regional Organized Crime Information Center (ROCIC). The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this document are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice. Regional Organized Crime Information Center and ROCIC are protected by copyright laws.

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