ELIZABETHTOWN — A 23-year-old man who was abducted in South Carolina and being held in Cumberland County is free, thanks to the efforts of several area law enforcement agencies and the FBI.
“The Bladen County Sheriff’s Office provided support for the FBI while they investigated an alleged kidnapping which occurred in South Carolina.” said Bladen County Chief Deputy Rodney Hester. “FBI agents utilized the Emergency Services Building located on Ben Greene Industrial Park Road in Elizabethtown beginning Friday morning and continued operations there until Tuesday when the victim was located.
“The victim was located just a few miles inside Cumberland County,” he added.
The victim’s name is being withheld in order to protect the safety of his family and friends. According to the WRAL website, the young man was delivering drugs for a Mexican drug cartel and it is alleged he owed the cartel more than $200,000.
According to published reports, the victim was abducted near St. Matthews, S.C., while on his way to work on July 9 and demands were made to his family. According to reports, the telephone calls with the demands were originating from a number in Mexico. The origin of the telephone calls initiated a national search for the victim, before he was located being held in a home at 13943 N.C. 210 South, according to WRAL.
“Sheriff’s Office investigators and uniformed deputies spent several hours assisting in this operation and are to be commended for their dedication. In addition to Sheriff’s Office involvement, Emergency Services staff assisted and EMS employees gave up their offices and never complained,” said Hester. “The Bladen County Sheriff’s Office is happy that the victim was located and returned to his family.”
According to WRAL, arrested and charged with federal kidnapping charges were Juan Manuel Fuentes-Morales, 26; Reuben Ceja-Renjal, 57; and Luis Castro-Villeda, 22. Additional arrests are expected to be made, according to reports.
FBI Special Agent in Charge of Columbia, S.C., David Thomas told WRAL News, “It was complex because we had a victim that was kidnapped in St. Matthews, S.C., and the hostage demands were coming in from Mexico. We knew that our victim wasn’t going to be in Mexico, but that narrowed it down to the United States, which wasn’t very helpful.”
Hester said the presence of the FBI at the Bladen County EMS facility generated a lot of buzz throughout the weekend.
“Several media outlets had inquired as to why so many FBI agents were at the EMS building over the weekend. At that time, no information could be released that could possibly jeopardize a human life,” Hester said. “I would like to thank the media for understanding that a very sensitive investigation was ongoing and for giving us the time needed to bring this investigation to a successful conclusion.”