Two men are facing federal charges in South Florida after authorities say they participated in a human smuggling ring where they kidnapped and tortured Cuban nationals while extorting their families for money.
Reynaldo Marquez Crespo, 41, and Jancer Sergio Ramos Valdes, 33, made their first appearances in court Wednesday, according to the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida.
Authorities said Crespo and Valdes would trick their victims into believing they were going to smuggle them from Cuba and into the U.S., but would take them by boat to a house in Mexico where they were held captive for ransom.
Crespo, Valdes, and others would force each victim to provide contact information for a family member who could pay a $10,000 ransom, officials said.
The men contacted the victims’ relatives, some of whom were located in Miami, and threatened to torture, starve, and kill the victims if the relatives refused to pay, authorities said.
If a victim’s relative was able to pay the ransom, the victim was sent by bus to the Mexican-United States border with instructions to seek political asylum. When victims’ relatives could not pay, they were beaten, threatened with knives and firearms, and electrocuted with stun guns, according to the complaint affidavits.
Valdes was arrested in Connecticut and Crespo was arrested in Texas. Both were brought to Miami to face their charges, and attorney information wasn't available.
The arrests were made as part of the Operation Sisyphus Task Force, which was formed to combat Caribbean based organized crime, officials said.