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Mara H. Gottfried, St. Paul Pioneer Press, Published May 05 2014

Mexican cartel members charged with kidnapping, torturing victims after thefts from St. Paul 'stash house'

ST. PAUL – A Mexican drug cartel had a “stash house” in St. Paul and, when drugs and money were stolen from it last month, people were kidnapped and tortured, according to charges filed in Ramsey County District Court.

A federal grand jury has been convened in the case, sources said, and charges could come this week.

The people who were kidnapped were later released. One man’s pinky finger was nearly severed, according to the charges filed last month in Ramsey County. A woman also told police she was taken to the stash house in the West Seventh neighborhood and then interrogated and raped, a search warrant affidavit said.

The U.S. attorney’s office declined to comment Monday.

The Ramsey County criminal complaints filed against three men – Antonio Navarro, Jesus Ramirez and Jonatan Geranimo Delgado – give the following accounts of what happened:

Navarro, 19, came to Minnesota from Glendale, Ariz., in March for a job. He got $1,000 a week, plus food, to watch a stash house on Palace Avenue, between Milton and Victoria streets, for a Mexican drug cartel. Cars filled with drugs arrived at the residence, and the drugs and money were hidden in the house.

The home was burglarized sometime around April 11-12, and a woman renting the home called Navarro. She told him people would be coming to Minnesota to investigate the circumstances of the 27 pounds of methamphetamine and money that had been stolen.

On April 14, Navarro picked up three men from the airport. They threatened Navarro and said he was responsible for the stolen drugs and money. They wanted to question people Navarro had brought to the home before the burglary.

Also on April 14, Navarro made arrangements to meet one of the people suspected in the burglary, identified in the complaint as Victim #1. Navarro called Victim #1, under the guise of purchasing marijuana.

They agreed to meet in south Minneapolis. Ramirez, 31, lifted his shirt to show a gold-plated handgun and told the men in the car with Victim #1 not to do anything stupid. Ramirez pointed to Victim #1 and said, “You, come with me.” The man complied.

A man with Ramirez and Navarro, known as Chapo, punched another man, identified in the complaint as Victim #2, and took him out of the car. Both victims were brought to the stash house, which Victim #1 recognized because he had previously smoked marijuana there with Navarro. Ramirez questioned them in the basement.

Ramirez said 30 pounds of “crystal” and $200,000 in cash were missing, and he gave the victims a choice: return the drugs or come up with $300,000 to cover the loss.

Victim #1 denied being involved with the theft, saying he only sold marijuana and had no customers for meth. The kidnappers told him his family would be killed if he didn’t return the drugs or come up with the money.

Both victims were tied to chairs and beaten over the next several hours. Ramirez held a gun to both their heads. Navarro, Ramirez and Delgado held Victim #2 down while Chapo cut his pinky finger with a pair of scissors, and the man passed out. The man later needed surgery to repair tendons.

Navarro didn’t participate in the beatings, Victim #1 reported, and was also tied up and beaten because he was being held responsible for the missing drugs and money.

The kidnappers eased up on the victims and made plans to pick up a woman believed to be related to the theft.

Police later tracked down a woman whom Chapo had brought to the house the same day the men were abducted. She was tortured and interrogated in the basement and, later, one of the suspects raped her at gunpoint, the search warrant affidavit said.

The next day, April 15, Victims #1 and #2 were released.

Police arrested Navarro and Delgado outside the house April 15 and found someone identified as Victim #3. He’d been brought there after getting a call from a man claiming to be a friend of a friend who needed help. In the house, Victim #3 was told to sit in the living room with four males, one of whom had a gold-colored handgun. The men asked Victim #3 about his brother and used his cellphone to text his brother.

On Monday, Delgado’s attorney, Anthony Deutz, said his client, who lives in North Hollywood, Calif., “got caught up in this situation. He was actually fearful himself during this incident and he’s proclaiming his innocence.”

Navarro’s attorney couldn’t be reached for comment.

Ramirez allegedly led Los Angeles police on an April 17 chase and was arrested in North Hollywood. No attorney was listed for him in court records.

A search of the Palace Avenue house turned up a handgun, scissors and about a pound of meth in a freezer, the complaint said.

Navarro, Delgado and Ramirez were each charged in Ramsey County with assault, aggravated robbery and kidnapping. They are all in custody.

Ruben Rosario contributed to this report.

The Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum News Service.