A Leonia man and an accomplice from California were convicted of kidnapping a teenager from Philadelphia and bringing him to Bergen County, where the ringleader of their group was shot and killed during a daring and dramatic rescue by the FBI.
Eduardo Castelan-Prado, 39, of Leonia, and Jose Ochoa, 32, of Moreno Valley, CA, and their unidentified partner snatched the 17-year-old victim at gunpoint from outside the restaurant where he worked last June 14, apparently to convince his father to pay a drug debt of hundreds of thousands of dollars, authorities said.
The men brought the boy to a garden apartment complex in Leonia, where they held the teen captive while demanding $500,000 from his parents, a complaint on file in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia says.
At one point, the captors threatened to resort to "plan B" – without specifying what that was -- if they didn't get their money. They even let the boy’s mother speak to him as proof that he was still alive, the complaint says.
FBI agents reviewed security video and identified a Jeep with California license plates that they traced to the Lakeview Apartments just off Grand Avenue and Route 95 in Leonia.
The registered owner was a woman with a criminal drug history who lives in the complex.
Early on the morning of June 16, 2021, the FBI stormed the apartment. They found the boy blindfolded on a couch. Next to him, holding a gun, was the accused ringleader.
He pointed the gun at the agents, who shot and killed him, the criminal complaint says. The boy was physically unharmed, it says.
His father later investigators that he owed a Mexican national $180,000 for "a quantity of drugs that he never received,” which he assumed had either been stolen or intercepted by authorities, according to the complaint.
“The events of this case are every parent’s worst nightmare: someone with ill intentions forcefully taking their child,” U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania Jacqueline C. Romero said Friday.
Jacqueline Maguire, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division, said the boy was “made a pawn in a despicable and dangerous ploy for money.”
The kidnapping convictions mean both Castelan-Prado and Ochoa will be “off the street and behind bars for decades, unable to victimize anyone else’s child,” Maguire added.
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