A Los Angeles-area man is expected to plead guilty this morning to a federal charge for his alleged involvement in a ring that collected ransom from people whose family members had been kidnapped in Mexico.
Francisco Hernandez Martinez, 20, of Vernon is expected to enter his plea to conspiracy, a felony charge carrying a sentence of up to five years in federal prison, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Hernandez and two co-defendants pretended to offer assistance to people who wanted to cross the border but instead held them for ransom and sometimes demanded additional money after receiving payments, prosecutors allege.
Edgar Lemus, 23, of Vernon, and Junior Martinez, 23, of Watts are also charged in the case. Prosecutors contend that Hernandez and the other two men picked up ransom payments from relatives at stores throughout the area.
Hernandez admitted to collecting $19,000 in May at a Walmart store in Paramount from the husband of a woman kidnapped in Mexicali, according to his plea agreement. He also admitted to receiving $26,000 in June at a Target store in South Gate from a relative of two kidnapped family members. All three defendants allegedly were seen together in May at a shopping center in Pico Rivera for another ransom payment pickup. Lemus and Martinez are expected to go on trial in November.