SANTA MARIA, Calif. — Authorities rescued a 17-year-old boy in Southern California after he was kidnapped and held hostage for four days by captors who threatened to harm him if his family did not pay a $500,000 ransom.
The teen was rescued Friday after law enforcement tracked him and his three kidnappers to a motel in Santa Maria, a city about 140 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles.
The nightmare began Monday morning, when the kidnappers caused a car crash in San Bernardino County, roughly 200 miles from Sant Maria, and abducted the teen when he got out of his vehicle to look at the damage, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles. A doorbell camera recorded the kidnapping.
The kidnappers called the teen’s mother from a Mexican phone number and demanded $500,000, saying it should be delivered to Nogales, Mexico, federal prosecutors said. The men repeatedly called her over the four days and threatened to harm her son if the family did not pay.
The suspects also took a video that showed the teenager being forced to read from a script saying the abduction was his father’s fault for an incident that allegedly occurred in New York, authorities said. The script said the father knew what he stole, and the video was sent to the boy’s mother.
“Few things can be as terrorizing to a parent as having your child kidnapped and held for ransom under threat of physical harm,” U.S. Attorney Martin Estrada said in a statement.
The captors, three men in their 20s, were charged federally with kidnapping and could face life in prison if convicted. They are scheduled to appear in court Monday afternoon.
Law enforcement used a Facebook Marketplace posting and the doorbell camera footage to track the victim and the suspects to Santa Maria. NBC affiliate KSBY said a search warrant was obtained for a Motel 6 where the teen was found. At least one firearm was recovered from the motel.
Authorities found the boy lying on the floor in a corner of the motel room. The family did not pay the ransom, officials said.