Federal prosecutors Tuesday announced the indictment of four men on charges alleging they kidnapped and tortured two men they suspected of stealing drugs and money from a St. Paul "stash house."
The kidnappers released their victims, but not before nearly severing one victim's finger, court papers allege.
Federal authorities who cracked the case linked the house at 914 Palace Av. to the Sinaloa cartel of Mexico, which has built a multimillion-dollar Midwest drug trade. What made this mission startling, they say, is that the cartel hired members of the transnational MS-13 organization. The incident is unprecedented in Minnesota, they said.
All four men were indicted on one count of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. One was also indicted on one count of using a gun during a drug crime.
"The allegations in the indictment are a frightening reminder of the violent capabilities of drug traffickers," U.S. Attorney Andy Luger said in a statement.
The indictment unsealed Tuesday and other court papers say the four men suspected the victims stole or knew who stole about 30 pounds of methamphetamine and $200,000 from the stash house last month. It names Jesus Ramirez, 31, of Los Angeles; Jonatan Delgado Alvarez, 22, of Los Angeles; Juan Ricardo Elenes Villavazo, also known as Chapo, 32, of St. Paul; and Antonio Navarro, also known as Tony Sanchez, 19, of St. Paul.
The defendants released the victims after determining they didn't know what happened to the drugs, the documents say.
Navarro and Alvarez were arrested outside the house April 15. Ramirez was arrested after a police chase in the Los Angeles area April 17. Villavazo remains at large, the U.S. attorney's office said.
A search of the house produced a pair of scissors, a 9mm handgun and a pound of meth.
The indictment alleges Navarro and Villavazo ran the stash house, and that Ramirez and Alvarez flew from Los Angeles on April 14 to try to recover the stolen meth. It alleges they kidnapped two young men in Minneapolis, beat them, held a gun to their heads, and threatened to kill them and their families.
Court papers allege Villavazo tried to cut off one victim's left pinkie with scissors while the others held him down. The documents say the victim later underwent surgery but that it was unclear if he would regain the ability to move his finger.
State charges filed last month against Navarro, Ramirez and Delgado are on hold pending the outcome of the federal case, said Dennis Gerhardstein, spokesman for the Ramsey County attorney's office.
Attorney Anthony Deutz represented Ramirez on the state charges. He declined to comment on the federal charges but added, "I think he got caught up in this and that he was not involved."
Alvarez and Navarro made a first appearance on Tuesday in St. Paul in front of U.S. Magistrate Judge Tony Leung. A full detention hearing will be held for them on Thursday. Ramirez will make a first appearance before Leung on Wednesday.