They have been here for a long time. They operate businesses throughout the country. Anyone who thinks that this only happens along the border better wake up and see it for what it is.
A Mexican drug cartel had a “stash house” in St. Paul, and when drugs and money were stolen from it last month, several people thought to be involved were kidnapped and tortured, according to charges filed in Ramsey County District Court.
A federal grand jury has indicted four men in the case. Federal charges could be coming this week.
The kidnapping victims were released, but the little finger belonging to one of the men was nearly severed by his captors, according to the charges filed last month in Ramsey County.
In addition, a woman said she was taken to the house in the West Seventh neighborhood, questioned and raped, a search warrant affidavit said.
The U.S. attorney’s office declined to comment Monday.
The Ramsey County criminal complaints filed against Antonio Navarro, Jesus Ramirez and Jonatan Geranimo Delgado give this account of what happened:
Navarro, 19, came to Minnesota from Glendale, Ariz., in March for a job. A Mexican drug cartel paid him $1,000 a week, plus food, to watch a stash house on Palace Avenue, between Milton and Victoria streets. Drugs were delivered to the house by car and, along with cash, hidden inside.
After the home was burglarized sometime around April 11-12, a woman renting the home told Navarro that people would be coming to St. Paul to investigate the theft, which included 27 pounds of methamphetamine.
On April 14, Navarro picked up three men from the airport who blamed Navarro for the theft and threatened him. They demanded to question people Navarro had brought to the home before the burglary.
That same day, Navarro arranged to meet a man suspected in the burglary, identified in the complaint as Victim 1, by calling him under the guise of buying marijuana.
They agreed to meet in South Minneapolis. Ramirez, 31, revealed he was carrying a handgun and warned the men in the car with Victim 1 not to do anything stupid. Ramirez pointed to Victim 1 and said, “You, come with me.” The man complied.
A man with Ramirez and Navarro, known as Chapo, punched another man, identified in the complaint as Victim 2, and took him out of the car. Both victims were put in a Toyota Camry that Ramirez drove and in which Chapo was a passenger. Navarro and Delgado, 22, followed in a Volkswagen Jetta.
The victims’ friends also followed until Ramirez noticed them. At that point, Ramirez put a gun to Victim 2’s head and told him to call the others to tell them stop following, which they did.
The victims were brought to the stash house in the 900 block of Palace Avenue, which Victim 1 recognized because he had previously smoked marijuana there with Navarro.A sign on the door of a door at 914 Palace Avenue shows the house is condemned and off-limits.
Ramirez questioned them in the basement.
Ramirez said 30 pounds of meth and $200,000 were missing. He gave the victims a choice: return the drugs or come up with $300,000 to cover the loss.
Victim 1 denied being involved with the theft, saying he only sold marijuana and had no customers for meth. The kidnappers told him his family would be killed if he didn’t return the drugs or come up with the money.
Both victims were tied to chairs and beaten over the next several hours. Ramirez held a gun to their heads. Navarro, Ramirez and Delgado held Victim 2 down while Chapo cut his finger with scissors, and the man passed out. The man later needed surgery to repair tendons.
Navarro also was tied up and beaten because he was being held responsible for the missing drugs and money, Victim 1 said.
The victims said they overheard the kidnappers say the theft could have been an inside job. The kidnappers made plans to pick up a woman related to the theft.
Police later tracked down a woman whom Chapo had brought to the house the same day the men were abducted. She was tortured and interrogated in the basement and, later, one of the suspects raped her at gunpoint, the search warrant affidavit said.
The next day, April 15, Victims 1 and 2 were released.
Police had begun investigating when they were told on the evening of April 14 about the abductions.
Police arrested Navarro and Delgado at the house April 15 and found a Victim 3. He’d been brought there after getting a call from a man claiming to be a friend of a friend who needed help. In the house, Victim 3 was told to sit in the living room with four males, one of whom had a gold-colored handgun. The men asked Victim 3 about his brother and used his cellphone to text his brother.
On Monday, Delgado’s attorney, Anthony Deutz, said his client, who lives in North Hollywood, Calif., “got caught up in this situation. He was actually fearful himself during this incident and he’s proclaiming his innocence.”
Navarro’s attorney couldn’t be reached for comment.
Ramirez allegedly led Los Angeles police on an April 17 chase and was arrested in North Hollywood. No attorney was listed for him in court records.
A search of the Palace Avenue house turned up a handgun, scissors and about a pound of meth in a freezer, the complaint said.
Navarro, Delgado and Ramirez were charged in Ramsey County with assault, aggravated robbery and kidnapping. All were in custody.