Drug Traffickers Charged With Kidnapping, Extortion, And Conspiracy To Distribute Heroin In Utah Case
SALT LAKE CITY – Federal prosecutors in Salt Lake City have unsealed charges alleging three individuals operating a drug trafficking organization traveled from Phoenix to Salt Lake City in August and kidnapped a 17-year-old boy at gunpoint from his mother’s Utah business while trying to collect a heroin-related drug debt.
The defendants conducted surveillance on a business in West Valley City operated by the victim’s mother for two days before striking. They entered the business and demanded more than $20,000 in compensation for heroin that was seized as evidence by law enforcement officers when she was stopped while transporting the drugs from Minneapolis to the Salt Lake valley. The defendants, according to a complaint in the case, told her she was responsible not only for the cost of the kilogram of heroin seized from her on Aug. 11, 2018, but was also responsible for heroin seized from another member of the drug trafficking organization.
Charged in the case are Oscar Rene Chacon Lopez, age 26, a Honduran citizen living in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico; and Jeanette Mejia, age, 25, Juan Carlos Moreno Trinidad, age 41, Nadia Carolina Avalos, age 33, and Issa Jassim Al-Sadoon, age 26, all of Phoenix.
The defendants are charged with one count of conspiracy to distribute heroin in a federal indictment. Chacon, Moreno, Avalos and Al-Sadoon are charged with kidnapping and Hobbs Act extortion in the indictment. Moreno, Avalos and Al-Sadoon are charged with brandishing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking offense and Chacon and Mejia are charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering.
The case stems from an investigation into a drug trafficking organization conducted by the Utah County Major Crimes Task Force and the Salt Lake City Division of the FBI. The West Valley City Police Department has also assisted with the case.
The complaint alleges the investigation has established that the defendants charged in the case have conspired with others to distribute 1000 grams or more of heroin in Utah.
The complaint alleges the individuals conspired to commit overt acts in furtherance of the drug trafficking conspiracy. Law enforcement officers seized approximately 990 grams of heroin and 28 grams of cocaine during the execution of a search warrant at a storage unit in West Jordan on April 10, 2018. During a traffic stop in Sandy on the same day, investigators seized 638 grams of heroin, 43 grams of cocaine, and $1,300. Later the same day, investigators seized approximately 567 grams of heroin, 17 grams of cocaine, $2,195 in cash, and packaging material consistent with illegal drug distribution during the execution of a search warrant in Magna.
The juvenile victim was abducted on Aug. 13, 2018. The victim called his mother and told her he had been taken by men who wanted money from her. She also received a short video of the inside of her truck demonstrating the kidnappers had also stolen her truck. In the following hours, Chacon sent numerous typed text messages and recorded voice messages. The complaint alleges the juvenile was kidnapped because of a drug debts and he would only be released unharmed if she did what she was told and deposited cash into bank accounts he had provided. He threatened her son and other children at her home with physical violence. Chacon made it clear he directed the kidnappers in Utah and that her son would be released only after he was paid at least $10,000.
FBI agents, Utah County Major Crime Task Force detectives, and West Valley police officers were able to locate and remove the juvenile victim later that evening from a Salt Lake County hotel room and return the juvenile unharmed to his home. Chacon, Moreno, Al-Sadoon and Avalos were charged in a complaint filed Aug. 20, 2018. Mejia was added as a defendant in the case when it was presented to a grand jury Sept. 4, 2018.
The maximum potential for the heroin conspiracy charge is life in prison with a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence. The potential penalty for brandishing a firearm during a drug trafficking offense is 7 years in prison. Kidnapping carries a potential life sentence with a 20-year mandatory minimum sentence. The Hobbs Act extortion count and the conspiracy to commit money laundering both have potential 20-year sentences.
Moreno, Al-Sadoon, and Avalos have been arraigned on the charges in the indictment and have entered pleas of not guilty to the charges. A five-day jury trial has been set for Nov. 13, 2018, before U.S. District Judge David Sam. The defendants are in custody pending trial. Federal arrest warrants are pending for Chacon and Mejia.
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