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Barrio Azteca gang member sentenced to 10 years for holding migrants hostage

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(The Center Square) – Alfredo Ochoa-Munoz, 37, of Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico, a member of the Barrio Azteca gang has been sentenced to 10 years in prison on 3 counts of hostage taking and conspiracy to take a hostage.

The United States Attorney for the District of New Mexico Alexander M.M. Uballez and Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations El Paso, Francisco B. Burrola revealed the sentence in Albuquerque.

Court records disclose that on February 17 Border Patrol agents at the I-10 checkpoint located between Las Cruces and Deming, stopped a vehicle driven by Michael Ryan Ratliff with the immigrants in tow. When the group was detained for questioning the immigrants revealed they had been held against their will at two trailers in Vado, New Mexico. Those trailers were rented by Ricardo Barrientos-Noriega.

The immigrants informed Border Patrol that they had crossed illegally and had been picked up between Feb. 5 and Feb 17 by a driver who stole their phones and placed them Ochoa-Munoz’s custody at which time they were told by Ochoa-Munoz, Barrientos-Noriega, and a third co-defendant, Luis Roberto Arturo Meza-Marin, that they were being held for ransom and were not allowed to leave until their families had paid up.

Payments were demanded by another Aztecas gang member Eduardo Sarellano-Garcia, a.k.a. “Padrino,” on pain of death, injury and continued detainment. Having received payment from the families, Ratcliff was transferring the immigrants “to their next destination.”

Ratcliff was arrested at the checkpoint. All three immigrants were subsequently able to guide the agents to the trailer locations where they had been held against their will.

Ochoa-Munoz, Meza-Marin and Barrientos-Noriega were arrested when agents went to the trailers.

At his swearing in ceremony last year, Umbalez said, “The people of New Mexico deserve dignity, safety and the evenhanded application of swift and certain justice…We will confront this challenge together, using all tools and every resource in pursuit of community safety.”

These latest convictions following investigations conducted by Homeland Security Investigations and U.S. Border Patrol appear to do just that.

Meza-Marin 33, and Barrientos-Noriega 24 both of Mexico have pled guilty to conspiracy to take a hostage and three counts of hostage taking and are incarcerated while awaiting sentencing.

Ratliff, 33, of Corinth, Texas was sentenced to 12 months in prison or time served, whichever was longer, and three years of supervised probation for conspiracy to transport illegal aliens and three counts of transporting illegal aliens.

Sarellano-Garcia who ordered the ransoms was indicted by a federal grand jury.

A report by AP revealed that mass abductions of migrants have become the modus operandi for Mexican gangs.

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