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Kidnapping staged to get money from ex, feds say

  • Story Highlights
  • Woman, boyfriend, third man charged in bizarre fake kidnapping
  • Feds say abduction was staged to collect $50,000 from woman's ex-husband
  • They said kidnappers bound teen with tape, burned him with blowtorch
  • Detention hearing set for Wednesday in Miami federal court
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By Rich Phillips
CNN Senior Producer
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MIAMI, Florida (CNN) -- A mother and her teenage son are kidnapped. The kidnappers place a cell phone in the car of the boy's father so they can communicate their ransom demands. The son is burned with a blowtorch. The mother implores the father to pay the ransom.

A terrifying scenario, but one that the FBI and police say was all orchestrated by the mother to get some fast cash from her ex-husband.

The mother, Alejandra Arriaza, her boyfriend, Angel Ponce, and his nephew, Joel Boza, were charged Tuesday with federal kidnapping counts. If convicted, they could be sentenced to life in prison.

According to an FBI affidavit, all three have admitted their roles in the phony kidnapping.

"We took it very seriously and believed a couple of lives were at risk," said Jim Leljedal of the Broward County, Florida, sheriff's office. "And then to find out that one of the victims was involved in the plot was pretty surprising."

The three suspects will have a detention hearing Wednesday in a federal court in Miami, Florida. The U.S. attorney's office would not comment on the case.

According to the FBI affidavit, written by special agent Scott Wilson, the plot was Arriaza's idea. It began, court papers say, when she and her boyfriend found out her ex-husband had recently come into some money from the sale of a business, and that he kept a large amount of cash in his home.

The father and son are not named in the affidavit, which refers to the father as "H.P." and to his 17-year-old son as "N.P."

The affidavit says that the plot began Thursday when Arriaza told her son she wanted to take him to Wal-Mart to purchase an Apple iPhone.

When they got back to their car, a masked intruder appeared from the back seat, pointed a gun at the son's back and told him and his mother that they were being kidnapped, according to the affidavit. The kidnapper placed thick tape over the son's eyes and instructed his mother to drive to a mobile home in southwest Miami, where a second person, who introduced himself as "El Negro," was waiting.

The affidavit says the men forced N.P. to sit in a chair, where they bound his hands. His torso was bound to the back of the chair with shrink wrap, and his legs were bound with tape. The boy's head was wrapped in thick tape from the top to the tip of his nose, and he was put in a closet, where he spent the night.

The next day, according to the FBI affidavit, the kidnappers called the boy's father on a cell phone they had placed in his car. The father then called authorities, who began to record the phone calls.

At one point during the abduction, the son told the kidnappers that his father had about $50,000 in a bank, the affidavit says.

When the kidnappers felt that the father was not complying with their demands, they threatened to burn his son, and at one point, according to the affidavit, "the kidnappers put a lit blowtorch close to the phone, so he could hear it."

During another phone call, Arriaza, who is the father's ex-wife, told him that kidnappers were burning their son's feet. She implored him to pay the kidnappers their ransom, the affidavit says.

At one point, Wilson wrote, the kidnappers held the blowtorch so close to N.P. "that it burnt the hair off his leg."

"I think they wanted to impress him with the seriousness so that he would relay ... to his father to come up with some money," Leljedal said.

Under the FBI's guidance, the father arranged to pay the ransom. But late in the evening of April 10, before the ransom was paid, law enforcement located the mobile home and rescued the son, who immediately identified his mother's boyfriend, Angel Ponce, as one of the men inside the unit where he was being held. A search of the home turned up a fake gun, a blowtorch, tape and three cell phones.

According to the affidavit, Ponce said Arriaza came up with the idea to have herself kidnapped, along with her son, to get money from her ex-husband.

Arriaza later admitted her involvement in the kidnapping and said her son had no involvement in the ruse, according to the FBI.

"We don't think she meant to harm to her son. She just wanted to collect from her ex," Leljedal said.

In the end, he said, it was all about one thing: "The basic motive of greed."

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