German Garcia Yera Hernandez and six other Mexican nationals are facing federal charges for running an alleged kidnapping ring, prosecutors announced Tuesday. 

Hernandez, 37, was said to be the ringleader of the group, which investigators believe kidnapped at least nine U.S. and Mexican citizens for ransom money. 

The six men named on the federal indictment face felony conspiracy and extortion charges. They are already in custody in Mexico, where they are also facing criminal charges, authorities said. No timeline for their extradition was given. 

If convicted on all charges, the six defendants face a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, or the death penalty, according to prosecutors. 

Federal prosecutors in California charged German Garcia Yera Hernandez and his six alleged co-conspirators with runnning a kidnapping ring in Tijuana and California. .
Federal prosecutors in California charged German Garcia Yera Hernandez and his six alleged co-conspirators with runnning a kidnapping ring in the U.S. and Mexico. Photo credit: Shutterstock

Feds Say German Garcia Yera Hernandez Ran Kidnapping Ring

From January to April 2020, federal investigators believe Yera Hernandez operated a kidnapping ring out of Tijuana with five other Mexican nationals — 27-year-old Gilberto Omar Avila Lopez, 24-year-old Aylin Estrada Reyes, 22-year-olds Joel Eduardo Mascorro Delgado and Victoria Camila Espinoza Ballardo, and 30-year-old Oscar Bautista Valencia. 

According to the indictment, the group would seek out U.S citizens or Mexicans with relatives living in America before luring those victims “into meetings under false pretenses” where they were taken hostage. The victims were restrained, often beaten, and kept captive at gunpoint, authorities said. 

Three of the nine known victims were killed outright when their family members indicated they could not pay the ransom, investigators believe. 

Others were murdered even after their captors received payment in order to “protect the conspiracy,” officials said. One text message exchange reportedly showed Yera Hernandez sending another suspect to pick up ransom money in exchange for the return of a victim who was already dead. In another instance, a victim’s body was discovered the day after his mother gave them $1,000 cash and her car. 

The scheme began to unravel in April, federal prosecutors wrote, when a woman in Pasadena, Calif., alerted authorities that her sister was being held ransom in Tijuana. Law enforcement in Mexico was able to track down the group based on the phone number they used to call the victim’s sister. All six were taken into custody, and the victim was safely returned to her loved ones. 

Authorities said German Garcia Yer Hernandez sent other members of his kidnapping ring to Norwalk, California to pick up ransoms from victims' families.
Authorities said German Garcia Yer Hernandez sent other members of his kidnapping ring to Norwalk, California to pick up ransoms from victims’ families. Photo credit: Shutterstock

Alleged Kidnappers Could Face Life in Prison

According to federal authorities, the six alleged kidnappers were each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit hostage taking resulting in death, one count of conspiracy to commit extortion, and one count of extortion. Yera Hernandez, Gilberto Lopez, and Victoria Ballardo were each charged with an additional count of hostage taking resulting in death and extortion. 

All of the charges are felonies. Federal prosecutors said each of the six, if convicted, faces a maximum sentence of life behind bars, or the death penalty. 

The six are in custody of Mexican law enforcement in Tijuana where they face similar charges, according to reports. It is not clear if or when they will be extradited to the United States to face the federal charges listed in the indictment. 

German Garcia Yera Hernandez and the other five members of his alleged kidnapping ring are in Mexican police custody in Tijuana.
German Garcia Yera Hernandez and the other five members of his alleged kidnapping ring are in Mexican police custody in Tijuana. Photo credit: Shutterstock

Though Yera Hernandez and his alleged con-conspirators are all Mexican nationals, investigators believe they arranged to pick up the ransom money — a federal crime — in parking lots at stores and restaurants in central and southern California. As such, the charges filed by U.S. prosecutors relate to the handing off of money: extortion, conspiracy to extort, etc.

The nature of the charges filed against Yera Hernandez’s gang by Mexican authorities were not immediately clear Wednesday. 

The FBI is investigating this matter and believes there may be victims who have not yet been identified. The FBI asks that anyone contacted by the defendants relative to a kidnapping or a ransom payment call the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office at (310) 477-6565.