A 23-year-old man who claims he was a Tijuana police officer was indicted by a federal grand jury Wednesday in connection with a plot to kidnap a child from a wealthy Tustin family and demand $300,000 in ransom.
Cesar Ariel Zapata-Landeros is accused of contacting an FBI informant to help with the kidnapping, FBI Agent George Boykins said in a criminal complaint filed in federal court.
About March 15, the informant told the FBI about the plot to kidnap the child as the victim's mother drive him to school, Boykins said.
Zapata-Landeros planned to run the mother's car off the road, flatten the tires and kidnap one of her two children who are 10-12 years old, Boykins said.
If the family did not pay the $300,000 ransom while the kidnappers held the child in a rented storage space in Westminster, Zapata-Landeros planned to cut off two fingers and send them to the family, Boykins said.
The name of the allegedly targeted family was unavailable.
Zapata-Landeros told the informant, in a meeting in a Santa Ana hotel room where he was staying, that he had done a kidnapping before, Boykins said.
At that point, the FBI decided to wire the informant for secret recording. The two men met March 15 at the California Lodge Suites, 2909 S. Bristol St., about 3:25 p.m., Boykins said.
When the informant asked Zapata-Landeros if they should also kidnap the mother, he replied, ``No, what the (expletive) do we need her for?''
Zapata-Landeros assured the informant he had cased out the family's home and he would accept no less than $300,000, Boykins said.
That same day, the two went to Beach Boulevard Storage and rented a space.
Federal investigators have been unable to confirm that Zapata-Landeros worked for the Tijuana police, said Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office, and FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller.
Zapata-Landeros was indicted on one count of solicitation of kidnapping for ransom, Eimiller said. He is scheduled to be arraigned Monday in a Santa Ana federal courtroom and faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted, Eimiller said.
Zapata-Landeros was arrested March 16 about 100 yards from the victim's home, Eimiller said.