Prosecutor: Bus drivers in league with migrant kidnappers

by: Julian Resendiz
Posted: Jun 26, 2023 / 02:20 PM CDT
Updated: Jun 27, 2023 / 12:12 AM CDT

Gang filmed beatings of African migrants, sent videos to relatives in U.S. demanding ransom, Sonora AG’s Office says

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – A victim who escaped his captors helped Mexican officials arrest two bus drivers allegedly paid to deliver African and South American migrants to an organized criminal group in Sonora.

The information provided by the escapee led to the rescue of 26 migrants from Africa and South America being held for ransom in the town of Sonoyta, the Sonora Attorney General’s Office said.

“The investigation began after we received information that migrants were being hit with wooden boards and recorded to demand a ransom from family members in the United States,” said Brando Saul Muñoz Felix, a prosecutor assisting the anti-kidnapping unit of the Sonora state police.

Investigators showed the escaped migrants photographs of suspects possibly involved in migrant trafficking activities and he was able to identify two of them, the prosecutor said.

Brando Saul Muñoz Felix (courtesy State of Sonora)

“We established that two bus drivers were tasked with transporting these (migrants) and delivering them to accomplices. They took photographs of migrants who go on the bus in Mexico City and then delivered them to their captors in Sonoyta,” Muñoz said in an online broadcast.

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The prosecutor said the filmed beatings were a way for the kidnappers to put pressure on the migrants’ relatives and expedite the ransom.

The bus drivers were arrested last week in the state capital of Hermosillo while transporting a separate group of migrants traveling with false Mexican immigration papers. The passengers included 24 citizens of African countries and two South Americans.

The transportation of undocumented African migrants is on the rise in the Sonora, Mexico-Nogales, Arizona corridor, according to Mexican officials.

Migrants caught with improper documentation aboard commercial bus at I-25 Border Patrol checkpoint

The Mexican National Guard said four commercial buses transporting 191 migrants were stopped late last week on the Hermosillo-Nogales highway.

The migrants were coming from Angola, Cameroon, Morocco, Mauritania, Nigeria, Uganda and Senegal and did not have travel permits to be in Mexico, the National Guard said in a statement. Other migrants traveling in the buses included citizens of Ecuador, Venezuela, China and Nepal.

Migrant apprehensions in May, by U.S. Border Patrol sector (CBP graphic)

U.S. Customs and Border Protection data shows migrant activity picked up in May in the Tucson Sector of the Border Patrol, which includes Nogales.

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The Tucson Sector is now No. 2 in the country in terms of migrant apprehensions, ahead of El Paso and Del Rio, Texas.