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August 6, 2014

Federal grand jury in Columbia indicts alleged kidnappers with Mexican drug trafficking tie

A federal grand jury in Columbia on Wednesday indicted three men linked to a Mexican-Carolinas drug trafficking ring for kidnapping.

A federal grand jury in Columbia on Wednesday indicted three men linked to a Mexican-Carolinas drug trafficking ring for kidnapping.

Juan Manuel Fuentes-Morales, 26, of Mexico; Ruben Ceja-Rangel, 57, of Mexico; and Luis Castro-Villeda, 22, of Garland, N.C., were all indicted on kidnapping, taking a hostage for ransom, and using a firearm in commission of a crime of violence, according to a release from the U.S. Attorney’s office in Columbia.

All are currently in a local jail being held without bond.

Court documents filed last month in North Carolina, where the men were originally taken into custody by the FBI, linked the three to a major Mexican drug trafficking organization that had an established marijuana pipeline into South and North Carolina.

Law officers said that the three men, on orders from the Mexican drug trafficking group, kidnapped a St. Matthews man at gunpoint July 9 because he had either lost or stolen a $200,000 shipment of marijuana weighing about 200 pounds. The Mexican group wanted its $200,000, and the marijuana back, and the kidnapped man had said he couldn’t give it to them.

The three men are accused of taking the kidnapped man to the mountains of North Carolina. He was rescued after a massive search involving numerous law agencies.

The three men have been in custody in North Carolina and were recently brought back to South Carolina. Thursday’s indictment means that federal authorities have now formally charged them in the state where the crimes are alleged to have taken place.

The three face a maximum sentence of life in prison.

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