Seven suspects arrested, migrants rescued in Tijuana

By Sandra Dibble
Tuesday, January 11, 2011 at 7:51 p.m.

TIJUANA — Baja California authorities said Tuesday that they had detained seven suspected gang members who offered to smuggle migrants to the United States but instead held them captive while demanding a ransom of up to $5000 from their family members.

Agents with the state’s anti-kidnapping squad made the arrests Sunday, and liberated two men and a woman found handcuffed and blindfolded in a house in eastern Tijuana. Baja California’s attorney general, Rommel Moreno Manjarréz, announced the operation during a news conference at his Tijuana office.

The victims told agents that they had been held captive since Friday, Moreno said. The woman and one of the male victims said they had been sexually assaulted.

The gang had been operating for about a year, Moreno said, and three members remained at large yesterday. It was unclear whether they had links to organized crime, or whether they were operating independently. Each member of the group was assigned a specific role, from calling families of the victims to demand money to making sure they didn’t escape.

The same group is believed responsible for the kidnapping and sexual assault of three male migrants who were released on Dec. 7 after family members paid $5000, and reported the crime to municipal police.

“There could be more cases, we are developing more information moment by moment,