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By the wee hours of April 15, the kidnappers were hitting a roadblock. Torture, beatings and death threats had failed to produce any leads on the missing drugs and money. Eventually, the victims overheard the kidnappers speculating that someone inside the cartel might be guilty of the theft, according to court documents, and their suspicions turned to others with knowledge of the stash house.
By morning, the two terrified men were told they would be released. “The kidnappers told the victims not to say anything,” according to a transcript. “They were willing to go to jail … and their being in jail wouldn’t save the victims or their families.”
The two were driven back to south Minneapolis and released early that afternoon and soon contacted agents with the FBI task force. Within hours, agents and local police were debriefing them.
Late that night, the St. Paul Police SWAT unit stormed the house on Palace Avenue, making several arrests and scouring the rooms for evidence. Delgado was arrested, but Ramirez and Chapo managed to escape. Ramirez took a flight back to Los Angeles, and by the following morning, the FBI was on his trail, while Chapo managed to disappear.
What became of the missing drugs and money remains unclear, but when the FBI and police searched the house, they found a pair of scissors used to torture the boy, a gold-colored Desert Eagle 9mm handgun and a pound of meth in a chest freezer — all potential evidence if the case goes to trial.
More important, authorities say, the episode exposed family and business connections that open new channels for ongoing investigations into the Midwest heroin and meth trade.
The stash house itself, they say, offered important insights into cartel economics. Drug merchants in Mexico and the United States have been able to slash the cost of meth in order to expand their customer base — a pound today is worth $8,500 to $12,000, down from more than $20,000 18 months ago. Small-time dealers who once sold ounces are now selling pounds because the price has dropped so quickly.
With that kind of volume moving through the Twin Cities, authorities say, they understand why the stash house was pivotal, and why the cartel was so intent on sending a message that rip-offs would not be tolerated.
Paul McEnroe • 612-673-1745