Three brothers were taken to hospitals this week after they and a fourth brother say they barely escaped death at the hands of abductors, possibly connected to Mexican cartels, who beat and forced them to work on a marijuana farm in Northern California from February to July.
The four men showed up on July 27 at a West Point, California home asking the resident to call 911, which the resident did. Three of the four were found to have “significant visible injuries” and the injured victims were taken to area hospitals, except one whose “severe injuries” caused him to be taken to a trauma center.
Two of the men told Calaveras County Sheriff’s detectives that they were initially picked up by a woman identified as Guadalupe Sierra “Lupe” Arellano, with the understanding that they would be doing landscaping work, and were taken to a house in West Point. After several days of working there in February, the two were taken by force to a large marijuana farm nearby. The men told detectives that they were threatened and forced to work at the farm for months.
Arellano somehow obtained the victim’s Modesto home address, traveled there and told their family members that the two brothers were working for her, and with marijuana, according to the Sheriff’s office. Arellano offered to take two family members to see the two men, and two more brothers decided to go with her. Arellano is said to have threatened to kill the family members if anyone contacted law enforcement. After being taken to West Point, the two additional brothers were “confronted and threatened by armed men and taken to the nearby marijuana site where they were reunited with their family members and forced to work.” The Sheriff’s office stated that family members back at home were also threatened.
A Sheriff’s Office statement continues:
In the days leading up to their escape on July 27, 2016 the victims were beaten for complaining about the conditions of their captivity. The victims overheard a male captor or suspect ask Lupe if they “could kill the victims.” “Lupe reportedly responded no because they were almost done with the marijuana harvest.” “Once they were done they would kill the victims.” It was also during this time that one of the male captors attempted to stab one of the victims. The suspect was holding a knife and gun at the same time.
The men then decided to escape during the night, and after doing so, it took them all night to find help.
A search warrant executed near Bald Mountain Rd. the next day uncovered 23 thousand marijuana plants valued as high as $60 million dollars. As the search warrant was carried out, a Hispanic male was seen fleeing the scene. Investigators found a backpack along the same trail the male fled on, and found a handgun inside. No arrests were made during the search of that location.
In the weeks that followed, several other search warrants were executed in Stanislaus County. Arrest warrants were issued for suspects. The District Attorney’s office is considering further charges against additional known suspects.
Arellano, 43, and Medarda Urbieta, 44, were taken into custody on September 14 in Modesto and charged with human trafficking, kidnapping, battery with serious bodily injury, terrorist threats and drug related charges, according to NBC2 local news. The women appeared in court in San Andreas, California, but did not enter pleas.
Calaveras County Sheriff’s Captain Jim Macedo said the women are believed to be in the United States illegally, according to the report. Authorities are still looking for two additional men, one of which is the brothers’ nephew, in connection with the marijuana operation.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement provided the following statement to Breitbart News:
Deportation officers with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have lodged detainers on Maria Guadalupe Arellano-Sierra and Medarda Urbieta-Estudillo, currently in the custody of the Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office. The detainers request ICE be notified prior to their releases from local custody, to enable the agency to take custody to pursue possible administrative immigration enforcement action.
Marcedo remarked, “We’ve seen an increase in violence, theft and greed related to marijuana trafficking, and this appears to be an organized, violent group,” according to the local news outlet. Macedo indicated there could be a link to Mexican drug cartels, which investigators are pursuing. It was reported that there was a religious shrine found at a Modesto home connected to the case. That shrine was denoted as one popular with Mexican drug traffickers. Arellano’s lawyer denied any cartel connection to his client.
An early version of the AP article stated that the two men, initially allegedly held against their will, were first picked up as day laborers.
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