A 24-year-old resident of Edinburg, Gilbert John Montez, has been sentenced to federal prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit hostage taking, as announced by U.S. Attorney Alamdar S. Hamdani.
Montez entered his guilty plea on April 24, 2023, and U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez has now ordered him to serve 200 months in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised release.
The court emphasized that individuals involved in criminal enterprises can be held accountable for the actions of all participants. Judge Alvarez expressed concern over the traumatic impact on a young child being removed from their mother, whether voluntarily or involuntarily, and being handed from person to person as if property with value.
Montez targeted a vulnerable family, leveraging the safety of a 4-year-old child and a parent's love to extort money. Hamdani stated, “He did not care that this child was passed from stranger to stranger, each time increasing the risk the child would be harmed. Instead, Montez put profit before people and only cared about making more money."
Special Agent in Charge Craig Larrabee of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) - San Antonio, emphasized HSI's commitment to aggressively target human smugglers and smuggling organizers who exploit people through threats and violence.
Montez recruited individuals, including Jose Andres Romo-Torres, Larissa Celena Gracia, Nichole Marie Garcia Tichacek, Michael Gee Ingram, and Jonathan Orlando Ortiz-De Leon, to transport and hold the child for ransom.
The child was handed off from one person to another, eventually reaching Houston, where Montez and Ortiz-De Leon demanded a $4,500 ransom from the child's father. Carlos Oyervides was hired to help collect the ransom.
Authorities intervened when they learned of the scheme, taking Oyervides and Ortiz-De Leon into custody at an apartment complex in Stafford. The child was located, and all individuals involved in the scheme, including Montez, pleaded guilty and have been ordered to prison.
Montez will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility. The investigation was conducted by HSI with assistance from the Mission Police Department.