FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Two men promised to smuggle Cuban migrants into the United States via Mexico, but instead they tortured and extorted their victims, prosecutors say.
Reynaldo Marquez Crespo, 41, and Jancer Sergio Ramos Valdes, 33, both Cuban, face charges of alien smuggling and kidnapping in a South Florida federal court.
Crespo and Valdez promised their victims safe passage across the Yucatan Straits, the body of water that separates Cuba from Mexico, on go-fast boats and then over land across Mexico to the United States border sometime during January 2019, according to court documents.
But the migrants were in for a rude awakening after Crespo, Valdez and a group of other unnamed suspects took them from Cuba by boat to Merida, Mexico.
There, the migrants were locked in a house and forced to turn over contact information for family members in the United States who could pay a $10,000 ransom, according to court documents.
Then, the men reached out to relatives and threatened to torture, starve or kill their victims if the family members didn't pay, according to a federal criminal complaint.
It wasn't an idle threat. Family members of the victims received videos of beatings and torture sessions featuring their captured relatives, court records say. They were told their relatives would be deprived of food and water if they didn't pay.
A federal criminal complaint against Crespo and Valdez mentions at least three victims, some with family members living in Miami.
All three of the victims, their narratives recorded in court records, report witnessing the smugglers beat and electrocute other kidnapped migrants. One told the FBI his captors showed him a cellphone video where they chopped off someone's finger with a shovel after their family couldn't cough up the cash.
Another smuggling victim, who had medical issues and wore a colostomy bag, was stripped naked, tied up and stunned with a Taser. Then the kidnappers sent a video of the torture to his family members in Las Vegas, according to the complaint.