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'Femme fatale' found guilty of kidnapping

Published: Friday, July 20, 2012

Updated: Friday, July 20, 2012 09:07


A San Diego jury convicted a young woman on kidnapping charges Thursday for her "femme fatale" role in a Mexican gang that targeted wealthy businessmen for large ransoms.

Nancy Mendoza Moreno, 24, an aspiring flight attendant, was found guilty of luring two men to a gang of kidnappers who preyed on San Diego suburbs from 2004 to 2007.

Mendoza was acquitted of a third kidnapping charge. She faces a possible life prison term at her sentencing hearing in August.

Portrayed as a party girl with a taste for pricey liquor and gangster boyfriends, Mendoza was found guilty of enticing Eduardo Gonzalez Tostado, 37, to a rendezvous at a house in Chula Vista, where masked gunmen held him captive for eight days.

Another man, Jorge Garcia Vasquez, 58, the brother-in-law of a top drug cartel figure in Tijuana, was traveling with Mendoza on an errand when he was snatched from his vehicle. He was released 22 days later after his family paid about $500,000 to the kidnappers.

The gang, called Los Palillos, or toothpicks, had split from the Tijuana-based Arellano Felix drug cartel and moved across the border, where it began targeting people it believed were linked to the cartel and who would be likely to pay a ransom without alerting police.

Mendoza's legal team raised a mistaken identity defense, but Gonzalez and Garcia testified at the trial, along with a former member of the gang who identified Mendoza as part of the crew.

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