3 Cuban nationals charged in Tampa

An indictment unsealed this week in Tampa has charged three Cuban nationals with conspiracy, kidnapping and extortion in a case involving the abduction of Cuban migrants in Mexico, where they were held until relatives paid ransom, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said Thursday.

The indictment, which caps an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement special agents, involves brothers Carlos Martinez de la Flor, 32, and Hector Daniel Camejo de la Flor, 23, and their uncle, Alexis Alberto Viltres Ramos, 42. According to ICE, Camejo de la Flor and Viltres Ramos are both from Miami while Martinez de la Flor once lived in Miami but moved to Mexico.

If convicted on all counts, each of the defendants faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Martinez de la Flor, Camejo de la Flor and Viltres Ramos, ICE said, participated in a conspiracy under which Cubans on the island with relatives in the United States were lured to boats that supposedly were bound for Florida, but in reality headed to Mexico.

The case is the latest involving migrants smuggled through Mexico and held hostage by smugglers.

ICE did not say where in Mexico the Cuban migrants were taken. But the majority of Cuban migrants smuggled through Mexico first travel by boat from Cuba’s westernmost province of Pinar del Rio to Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula.

ICE said smugglers told one of their victims, whose father lives in Tampa, that unless someone paid the ransom, he would be beaten to death.

“They called his father and told him that if he wanted to see his son again, he had to come up with the ransom money,” an ICE announcement said.

It added that Martinez de la Flor allegedly ran the house in Mexico where the smugglers kept the hostages and demanded ransom.

Camejo de la Flor and Viltres Ramos, who were in Florida, allegedly picked up the ransom money that the victim’s father ultimately paid to secure his son’s release, ICE said.

In September last year, El Nuevo Herald reported from Mexico City a similar case in which smugglers were holding Cuban migrants hostage.

The story cited the case of Yurizan Gonzalez, whose kidnappers made a cut on his ear in a room of an old abandoned house in Cancun, a coastal resort city on the Yucatan peninsula, where he was held captive.

Gonzalez, interviewed by El Nuevo Herald at Las Agujas Immigration Station south of Mexico City, was one of several undocumented Cubans who, during the first two weeks of September, were tortured, beaten and threatened by a band of migrant smugglers.

Some of the captors were Cubans from Miami and others were Mexican, according to the victims’ descriptions given to El Nuevo Herald and Mexican officials.

The hostages were rescued by the Mexican military two weeks after they arrived from Cuba.

And last month, two Cuban nationals from Hialeah, a mother-and-son team, were sentenced in federal court after being convicted in a case in which an undocumented migrant was held hostage for failure to pay smuggling fees.

The case involved a Guatemalan migrant smuggled to Florida, where he was held hostage until a relative paid.