SALT LAKE CITY — Five people face federal charges for allegedly trafficking in drugs and kidnapping a 17-year-old boy at gunpoint from his mother's West Valley City business while trying to collect a heroin debt.
Some of the defendants scoped out the business for two days before going in and demanding $20,000 in heroin that police had seized from the woman when she was stopped while driving the drugs from Minneapolis to the Salt Lake area, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Utah.
They told her she was responsible not only for the cost of the kilogram of heroin seized from her on Aug. 11, but for heroin seized from another member of the drug trafficking organization, according to a criminal complaint. Her son was abducted two days later.
Charged in the case are Oscar Rene Chacon Lopez, 26; Jeanette Mejia, 25; Juan Carlos Moreno Trinidad, 41; Nadia Carolina Avalos, 33; and Issa Jassim Al-Sadoon, 26. Chacon is a Honduran citizen living in Nogales, Mexico, and the rest are from Phoenix.
The five are charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute heroin.
Chacon, Moreno, Avalos and Al-Sadoon are also charged with kidnapping and extortion. Moreno, Avalos and Al-Sadoon are charged with brandishing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense. Chacon and Mejia are charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Chacon sent numerous text messages and voice messages in the hours after the alleged abduction. The teenager called his mother and told her he had been taken by men who wanted money from her. Additionally, she received a short video of the inside of her truck showing that the kidnappers had also stolen the vehicle, prosecutors say.
Moreno, Al-Sadoon and Avalos told police "they had been tasked by their boss who they know as Gio Chacon, to conduct the kidnapping," according to a search warrant in the case.
They also told police that they had taken photos and video of the boy and sent them to his mother and to Chacon during the kidnapping, the warrant states.
The complaint alleges the boy was kidnapped because of his mother's drug debts and he would only be released unharmed if she did what she was told and deposited at least $10,000 into bank accounts Chacon had provided. He threatened her son and other children at her home with physical violence, according to prosecutors.
FBI agents, Utah County Major Crime Task Force detectives, and West Valley police were able to locate and rescue the boy later that evening from a Salt Lake County hotel room.
The complaint alleges the defendants conspired to distribute at least 1,000 grams heroin in Utah.
Moreno, Al-Sadoon and Avalos pleaded not guilty. A five-day jury trial in U.S. District Court is scheduled for Nov. 13. All three are being held in jail.
Federal arrest warrants are pending for Chacon and Mejia, prosecutors said.