Alleged kidnapping ring busted in Hidalgo County

Sheriff says group has ties to drug cartel; 4 still sought

Flanking Sheriff Eddie Guerra are Max Cantu, left, of the Hidalgo County Sheriff Major Crimes Task Force, and Nancy Castillo, Border Patrol Task Force, at a press conference on a aggravated kidnapping ring on Wednesday in Edinburg. (Delcia Lopez | dlopez@themonitor.com)

EDINBURG — Hidalgo County Sheriff’s investigators arrested seven alleged cartel members who kidnapped two men they believed had stolen a large shipment of narcotics, but four suspects still remain at large and are considered armed and dangerous, Sheriff Eddie Guerra said Wednesday.

The aggravated kidnapping of Rolando Cruz Jr. and Jose Alfredo Eliserio Jr. on May 6 in rural Mission is the first kidnapping case for Guerra’s investigators this year, but it’s not the only kidnapping case reported throughout the county.

At least three of the 11 accused of participating in the May 6 kidnapping near Mile 5 and La Homa Roads also participated in a “recent” kidnapping in Mission, Guerra said, declining to give any details on the case being handled by Mission police.

Mission Investigator Art Flores, who serves as the public information officer, could not provide any details Wednesday until consulting with police Chief Roberto Dominguez. Flores, however, is expected to release information Thursday.

In the Hidalgo County kidnapping case, both victims were eventually let loose by their kidnappers, Guerra said, adding they displayed injuries consistent with being beaten. Investigators believe the men were kidnapped and beaten at two separate locations in Palmview and San Juan because the unnamed transnational criminal organization believed the pair had stolen a large shipment of drugs from them.

Of the 11 people accused of participating in that kidnapping, seven were arrested and four remain on the run, including the alleged ringleader who ordered the kidnappings, Enrique Aguirre Jr., also known as Junior.

Of the seven arrested, three of them are minors, Guerra said. One is a 16-year-old female and the other two are 16-year-old males. None of them were identified because of their age.

Deputies have already obtained arrest warrants for the four suspects who remain at large: Aguirre Jr., the alleged ringleader, Oved Alejandro Ponce, Victor Luna, who also goes by the name of Hector Bernal, and Marco Antonio Elizondo.

“These suspects remain at large and they are considered to be armed and dangerous,” Guerra said during a press conference Wednesday. “We encourage any witnesses with any information regarding this case to please come forward.”

Tipsters can call the sheriff’s office at (956)383-8114 or call (956)668-TIPS (8477) to remain anonymous.

Throughout the course of the investigation, deputies worked alongside a number of agencies, including Mission police department, Palmview police department, U.S. Border Patrol, FBI, U.S. Marshals, Texas Department of Public Safety and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Guerra said. Together, they were able to conduct a series of raids and search warrant executions that resulted in the seizure of weapons, ammunition, protective gear and some cash.

“We haven’t seen these in a long time,” Guerra said about aggravated kidnappings. “Last year we had absolutely no reports of any aggravated kidnapping in 2018. Of course this year, it’s our first case of aggravated kidnapping.

Last year, this sheriff’s office investigated 18 home invasions, and this year, they’ve only had three so far, he added.

“So we’re seeing these kind of activities and crime come down,” Guerra said.

AT A GLANCE

Arrested

>> Luis Angel Rosas-Jimenez, aka Ferrari,

>> Jorge Elias Martinez

>> Jose Alfredo Chavez

>> Rocio Hernandez Barajas

>> One 16-year female

>> Two 16-year-old males

Wanted

>> Enrique Aguirre Jr.

>> Oved Alejandro Ponce,

>> Victor Luna, also known as Hector Bernal

>> Marco Antonio Elizondo, tied to Mission kidnapping

Kidnapping victims

>> Rolando Cruz Jr.

>> Jose Alfredo Eliserio Jr.

Linked to Mission kidnapping

>> Jose Elias Martinez

>> Victor Luna

>> Marco Antonio Elizondo