Two suspects accused of trying to collect ransom money during a kidnapping scheme at a Fort Worth Home Depot store were convicted in federal court Friday.
Nygul Anderson, 19, and Albert Gonzalez, 18, were each convicted of one count of a conspiracy to use an interstate facility to commit a travel act violation, according to a news release from the U.S. attorney's office.
The two men each face a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000. U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor reserved ruling on the two other counts.
Fernando Cabrera, 21, who has pleaded guilty, and a 17-year-old juvenile were also arrested in connection with the kidnapping scheme.
The investigation began after Sept. 22, when a North Richland Hills man reported receiving threatening phone calls from Mexico, according to court documents. The man told police that the caller demanded money and said he would kill the man's two brothers if he did not get it, according to a federal complaint.
The caller later reduced the amount of money he demanded from $300,000 to $40,000 and finally to $20,000, the complaint said.
When the victim agreed to pay the money, the caller told him to leave it by a dumpster at a 7-Eleven store in north Fort Worth, near Interstate 35W and Heritage Trace Parkway.
The victim dropped off the money and then received another call informing him of his brothers’ location. Relatives in Mexico went to the location and found the brothers tied up in a motel room.
On Sept. 29, the victim received another call from the same man, who demanded $100,000 “or else they would kidnap [the victim’s] brothers again and kill them,” the complaint said.
The caller told the victim that he works with the Mexican police and the Jalisco cartel. The caller gave him until Oct. 13 to make another ransom drop, the court documents said.
The victim agreed but refused to leave the Fort Worth area to make the drop. The caller told him to drop off the money at the Home Depot off I-35W and Basswood Boulevard, the complaint said.
When the victim arrived about 4:30 p.m. Oct. 13, FBI agents were also outside the store, monitoring the drop. After the victim dropped off the money, the agents saw the juvenile exit a red Chevrolet Camaro to pick up the cash, the complaint said.
The agents then arrested the juvenile, along with Cabrera, Anderson and Gonzalez, who were also in the Camaro.
Cabrera denied knowing that the money was part of an extortion scheme, but he admitted that he and the other three men had gone to retrieve “illicit funds.”
Anderson told agents that the men were getting the money for Cabrera’s uncle, the complaint said.
Other suspects with alleged ties to the Jalisco New Generation Cartel were arrested in North Texas about the same time this arrest occurred.
In September, eight suspects linked to the drug-trafficking organization were arrested in Dallas on federal drug charges, accused of trafficking methamphetamine and other drugs from a “superlab” and selling them out of a used car dealership.
The Jalisco New Generation is the newest of the most powerful cartels in Mexico, according to the DEA. The cartel formed around 2010 after breaking off from Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman’s Sinaloa cartel.