A woman and her boyfriend are behind bars today and facing felony charges for allegedly collecting ransom money as part of a cross-border kidnapping scheme.
Leslie Briana Matla, 20, who formerly lived in Colton and currently lives in Mexico, and her boyfriend, Juan Carlos Montoya Sanchez, 25, of Tijuana, have each been charged with one count of money laundering conspiracy, the U.S. Department of Justice said today.
The kidnapping scheme allegedly involved Matla and her boyfriend kidnapped three Southern California residents. The residents of San Diego, Norwalk, and Pasadena, were kidnapped in Tijuana while on business or visiting family, the Justice Department said in a release. The victims' families were later notified via a call from a phone number located in Mexico, with instructions on how to deposit ransom money at specific locations.
Matla is accused of crossing the border from Mexico into the U.S. to pick up the ransom payments from the victims' family members.
Two of the victims were killed. Mexican authorities discovered the San Diego man's body on March 29 - one day after the man's son left a bag filled with $25,000 inside the women's restroom of a McDonalds in San Ysidro.
Another victim, the Norwalk man, was discovered in Mexico on April 14 - one day after the victim's family attempted, but did not succeed in paying the $25,000 ransom to the woman law enforcement believes was Matla.
On April 22, a Pasadena woman called law enforcement to report that her family member had been kidnapped in Mexico, with the kidnappers demanding a ransom of $20,000.
According to court documents, one of the kidnappers contacted the Pasadena victim's family and told them that a pregnant woman would pick up the $20,000 in cash at a Food 4 Less parking lot in Lynwood.
At the same time - law enforcement was able to rescue the Pasadena victim, who was being held hostage at the same Tijuana hotel where the first two kidnapping victims were held.
At least nine suspects were arrested by Mexican authorities at the hotel.
Law enforcement managed to identify Matla after comparing U.S.-Mexico border crossing records, and security camera videos at the various pickup locations.
Court records show Sanchez received wire transfers from two of the kidnapping victims, the complaint alleges.
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