Six Mexican nationals are accused of kidnapping nine people and murdering six of them, including three U.S. citizens, authorities said Tuesday.
The group, based in Tijuana, Mexico, was in the custody of Mexican authorities and faces charges there, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Central California said in a news release.
It wasn’t immediately clear where they are being held or what they are accused of in Mexico.
A spokesman for the federal prosecutor’s office in California declined to say whether they will be brought to the U.S.
The group is accused in the U.S. of operating a kidnapping gang for four months last year that often lured victims to meetings under false pretenses, then held them at gunpoint and brutally beat them, the release said.
After victims were assaulted, the group called relatives and demanded money or cars in exchange for their release. Victims were killed if the ransom wasn’t paid, the release said.
The group is also accused of killing victims despite receiving a ransom payment to protect the alleged “conspiracy,” authorities said.
A federal grand jury indicted the group on charges of conspiracy to commit hostage taking resulting in death, conspiracy to commit extortion and other crimes.
In one case, after a U.S. citizen from Southern California was alleged to have been kidnapped as he was visiting a relative in Tijuana on April 11, the gang demanded $25,000 for his release, the release said.
After his mother offered $1,000 and her son’s car, the group murdered him, authorities allege. His body was found in Mexico the next day, according to the release.
None of the victims were identified.
In another case in April, a Pasadena woman told authorities that the group demanded $20,000 in exchange for the release of a relative. Mexican authorities found the victim alive at a Tijuana hotel. It was unclear whether the ransom was paid.
Authorities identified the man they say is the gang’s ringleader as German Garcia Yera Hernandez, 37.
The others who were indicted are Gilberto Omar Avila Lopez, 27; Aylin Estrada Reyes, 24; Joel Eduardo Mascorro Delgado, 22; Victoria Camila Espinoza Ballardo, 22; and Oscar Bautista Valencia, 30.