A Grand Prairie man has been sentenced to two years in prison for forcing Hispanic immigrants to stay at what police have called an “unorthodox” rehab program.
Patients at an alcohol and drug rehabilitation facility in Fort Worth were beaten, tied to chairs and allowed to eat only a package of ramen noodles a day, police said.
In a plea bargain reached with prosecutors, Ricardo Rodriguez, 22, pleaded guilty earlier this month to kidnapping.
“This is not a Hollywood version of a kidnapping,” defense attorney Anthony Simpson of Fort Worth said Wednesday in a telephone interview. “My client was trying to help people.”
Patients at the community-type facility signed contracts to stay in the program for 90 days, officials said.
An investigation of the program, which was not licensed by any state agency, began in October 2016 when police responded to a disturbance call on Union Bowers Road in Irving. Officers found a man being chased by several other men, Irving police said.
“The victim advised police that he had run away from a treatment facility,” Irving Detective James McLellan told the Star-Telegram in an October 2016 interview.
The man directed police to a facility in the 2400 block of Penn Street in Irving where officers found several people described as patients. At least two of them told officers they were being held against their will, and some said they’d been physically abused.
A patient at the facility told officers there were similar programs in Fort Worth.
Fort Worth detectives went to locations on North Beach Street and Brentwood Stair Road.
Fort Worth police found nine patients at the North Beach Street location, but tenants there said they were not being held against their will.
But at the Brentwood Stair center in Fort Worth, officers found eight men and three women whom they listed in a report as victims. The youngest was a 22-year-old woman, the oldest was a 66-year-old man.
There were no signs on a building at the address in the 5000 block of Brentwood Stair Road where Fort Worth police said the program was located.
Adolfo Tello, 61, of Grand Prairie, and Rodrigo Soto Gonzalez, 24, of Dallas, also were arrested last year and they face charges of engaging in organized crime in connection with the Fort Worth case.
In Irving, eight people were arrested in October 2016 at the facility, many on outstanding warrants. Specific to the program, six suspects were charged with aggravated kidnapping and one was charged with unlawful restraint, Irving police said.
Trials are pending for several suspects in the Irving case.
This report includes information from Star-Telegram archives.