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Duress defense fails as judge sends kidnapper to prison

Claims by three illegal immigrants that a fourth man forced them to kidnap a 6-year-old West Valley City boy did not keep them from being sentenced to prison.

The three claimed they were afraid to go to police, but no evidence linked the alleged mastermind to the kidnapping plot.On Monday, Joel Vasquez-Gomez, the last of the three kidnappers, went to prison.

Rogelio Alvarez, 20, Angel Popoca-Mauro, 26, and Vasquez-Gomez, 18, were all initially charged with child kidnapping, a first-degree felony. All pleaded guilty to attempted child kidnapping, a first-degree felony punishable by three years to life in prison.

Third District Judge William Bohling sentenced Alvarez and Vasquez-Gomez to three years to life. Popoca-Mauro, who played a lesser role, received a one- to 15-year term.

Luis J. Velazquez was snatched off the street May 8 while walking to school with his 12-year-old sister.

The boy was bound and gagged with duct tape and left for eight hours in an abandoned car while the kidnappers called the boy's father and demanded $50,000.

Meanwhile, two passers-by saw the boy in the car and called police. The three kidnappers were arrested when they returned to get the victim.

The defendants claim a cocaine dealer ordered them to grab the boy. Vasquez-Gomez's attorney, Victor Gordon, said the defendants were afraid to seek help from police because they do not speak English.