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ABQ man charged in kidnapping, murder in Pa.

Jose Castillo in a 2007 booking photo

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — An Albuquerque man – along with seven others – carried out a kidnapping for ransom and eventual murder of a business owner in Pennsylvania last spring, the U.S. Attorney’s Office alleges in court documents.

Jose “El Bigoton” Castillo, 44, is charged with kidnapping, conspiracy and using a firearm in connection with a crime of violence in the June 2018 case.

Also charged are Ivan Prieto, 34, of North Carolina; Jose Bernal, 30, of Delaware; and Jose Delgado, 40, Salvador Guerrero, 47, Robert Favors, 39, John Perkins, 31, and Fermín Perez Mejia, 35 – all of Pennsylvania.

“Anyone willing to abduct another human being and try to trade their life for money is a danger to society,” Michael T. Harpster, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division, said in a statement. “Just imagine the terror of being kidnapped, restrained, and at the total mercy of armed criminals. The FBI will never stop working to make our communities safer from violent thugs who care nothing for the lives of others.”

Court records allege the eight men kidnapped a business owner, who is not identified, over a “perceived debt” before demanding a ransom from his family and eventually killing him.

According to an indictment filed in U.S. District Court, it was sometime before June 2018 when four of the men – including Castillo – hatched the plan to abduct the businessman and collect a ransom over a “perceived debt” he owed them.

Agents say the suspects met at a Philadelphia restaurant on June 8, recruiting Favors, Perkins and others to assist in the plan. They then met with a friend of the businessman twice, at a strip club and fast food restaurant, under the guise of renting a property from the businessman for “drug trafficking activity.”

Court records allege the suspects set up a meeting with the businessman on June 19, kidnapped him from his Philadelphia home and took him to a garage where they tied him up with duct tape, handcuffs and zip ties.

Agents say the suspects called the businessman’s wife multiple times and demanded hundreds of thousands of dollars for his safe return. At some point in the following days, the businessman was shot in the head.

Court records allege the suspects then buried the gun and destroyed the SUV they used in the kidnapping. In July, one of the suspects called Castillo and told him the authorities were looking for him and to leave the country.

“As alleged in the indictment, these ruthless individuals are a serious threat to the safety of our neighborhoods – not just in Philadelphia, but the entire mid-Atlantic region and beyond,” U.S. Attorney William McSwain said in a statement. “This indictment reflects our Office’s steadfast commitment to rid the streets of people who resort to intimidation and extreme violence to try to get what they want.”

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