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Gang Said Linked to Mexico Kidnaps

September 1, 2000

MEXICO CITY (AP) _ A group of alleged kidnappers arrested over the weekend is being linked by prosecutors here to a cocky, well-armed mafia accused of some of Mexico’s most spectacular abductions.

Eight people were arrested Sunday in the central Pacific coast state of Nayarit. A spokesman for the state’s attorney general’s office, Jesus Cervantes, said they were part of a larger organization.

``The gang has approximately 80 members, but divided in organizations in which only the leaders know one another,″ he said. ``Each group is different, but they depend on the same supreme command,″ he said.

Cervantes said prosecutors have linked the group to the 1996 kidnapping of Japanese businessman Mamuro Konno in Tijuana and to the abduction of ranchero music singer Vicente Fernandez’s son. Konno, president of Sanyo Video Components U.S.A., was kidnapped in Tijuana in 1996 and freed after eight days for $2 million ransom. Vicente Fernandez Jr. was kidnapped in May 1998 and released four months later after payment of a reported $3.2 million ransom _ and after his abductors cut off two of his fingers.

Enrique Tellaeche, a spokesman for the attorney general’s office in Baja California state, where Konno was abducted, said the arrest of three suspects at that time led officials to believe there were 20 people in the kidnapping group.

``One can think that the band grew since that kidnapping, some who entered and others where were there for a time,″ he said. ``We also see that there have been seasons of kidnappings in Sinaloa, Nayarit and Sonora (states) along with Baja California,″ he added.

But a private expert on security against kidnappings expressed reservations about the theory of a large national kidnapping gang. Jon French of Problem Solvers said most Mexican kidnapping organizations have about 12 members.

``What is common are local groups that reach an agreement with (police) and really, if there is a network on a national level, it would greatly surprise me,″ he said.

Cervantes said the organization has held captives as long as seven months and sometimes send bits of a finger to relatives. It charges ransoms in dollars and uses automatic weapons loaded with explosive cartridges.

``There have been absurd cases in which the kidnapper told the relatives: ’Take your time gathering the ransom. I am going on Easter vacation and I will call you when I return,‴ Cervantes said.

He said anti-kidnap police from at least eight states are questioning the suspects arrested over the weekend. He identified the suspects as Carlos Rojas, Roberto and Adalberto Arellano, Justo Mayor, Arturo Torres, Pedro Gutierrez, Andres Brito and Maria del Rosario Peregrino.

``They have clarified the cases of a businessman from Jalisco state who was kidnapped last year and whose body is being sought,″ Cervantes said.

The arrests came after one of the suspects visited a hospital in the Nayarit state capital of Tepic for treatment of a bullet wound. He admitted he had been shot during a dispute over division of a ransom.

Cervantes said the organization’s roots extend back more than a decade.

He said officials have not detected links with police agencies. Many kidnapping gangs in Mexico have been connected to current or former policemen.

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