Kidnapping capital - Mercedes-Benz Forum

 
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post #1 of 2 (permalink) Old 04-18-2009, 09:56 PM Thread Starter
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Kidnapping capital

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In Phoenix, the nation's fifth-largest city, police report close to 1,000 kidnappings over the past three years tied to border smuggling, be it human or drugs or both. The rise parallels a shift in illegal immigrant crossings from California and Texas to the Arizona border, where many of the same gangs transporting people transport drugs. The perpetrators are often after ransom money, for a drug load lost or from a family that paid to have a relative brought over.

The problem has earned the city the unfortunate distinction of "America's kidnapping capital" in some media accounts, even though the incidents are mostly out of sight and out of mind for law-abiding residents and overall crime, including homicides, was down last year.
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With some 4.9 million trucks crossing into the United States from Mexico every year, tractor-trailers have become a transportation mode of choice among traffickers. Drugs head north, but weapons and cash also head back south — like the $400,000 Border Patrol agents found on April 2 near Las Cruces, N.M., stashed in the refrigeration unit of a semi.

Shelby County is a trucking mecca, with highways 65, 20, 59 and 459 running east to Atlanta, north to Nashville, south to New Orleans, west to Dallas. Once reluctant to haul drug shipments too far beyond a border state, drivers are willing to take more chances now, because there are so many trucks on the road, Bowden says.

Since January, 27 people were sentenced in Alabama federal court in just one case for using tractor-trailers to transport cocaine and marijuana from Mexico across the border to Brownsville, then up through Birmingham on I-65 to northern Alabama for distribution. Investigators seized 77 pounds of cocaine during the investigation — more than the DEA seized in the entire state of Alabama in all of 1999. The scheme, according to an indictment, had operated since 2004.

Amid all of this, an operation moved into Shelby County, leading to the call on Aug. 20.

A simple welfare check brought deputies to the Cahaba Lakes Apartments off Highway 280, down the road from upscale Vestavia Hills, whose motto is "A Better Place to Live."

The victims were Hispanic, all illegal immigrants. Interviews with family members and associates helped investigators piece together a sketchy portrait of what happened.

Agents described it as friendly competition turned deadly among a group of distributors from Atlanta and Birmingham that often sold and shared drug loads when one or the other group was running low. At some point, about a half-million in drug money went missing. One group suspected the other of taking it, and went after the five men at Cahaba Lakes.

The money was never found.
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post #2 of 2 (permalink) Old 04-18-2009, 10:29 PM
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