Friday, May 24, 2013


Man held hostage for a month in New York

Three arrested after Ecuadorean victim snatched on street, bound and burned with acid while held for $3m ransom.
CCTV image of an unidentified man who tried to withdraw funds from Pedro Portugal's bank account.

A businessman was snatched from a New York City street in broad daylight, then held captive for more than a month in a warehouse where he was bound and burned with acid while his kidnappers demanded a $3m ransom that his family in Ecuador did not have, police said.

Pedro Portugal, 52, was found this week after detectives who had been monitoring phone calls noticed pizza deliveries to a deserted area in Queens and zeroed in on the warehouse.

Three men were arrested and charged with kidnapping and unlawful imprisonment. One other suspect is believed to be at large in the US, and three fled to Ecuador.

Portugal, a father of six who owned a small accounting and tax firm in Queens, was burned with acid and spent almost a month with his head cloaked, officials said. He remained in hospital on Thursday.

Police said he was approached by three captors on 18 April. One flashed what looked like a police badge and called out the victim's name. He was forced into a sports utility vehicle where he was held at knifepoint and bound, then taken to the warehouse. His mother in Quito, Ecuador, received a call from a man calling himself Tito demanding a $3m ransom, police said.

Police commissioner Raymond Kelly said the family had some property, but not enough cash to pay the ransom. Five detectives were sent to Ecuador to learn more about the victim and his family.

"It's something that we're still investigating to see why these people thought that $3m might have been available," Kelly said.

Portugal was burned, beaten and threatened with mutilation and death, including threats to cut off his fingertips if the family didn't come up with the money, officials said. The man "suffered physical injuries and has been deeply traumatised by the ordeal", said the Queens district attorney Richard Brown.

On 20 May, investigators who had been monitoring the area noticed a light on upstairs in an otherwise dark warehouse in Long Island City, in Queens. They went in and discovered Portugal with his hands bound in a makeshift apartment.

"The person who was 'babysitting' him, as they called it, got away, but he was arrested very quickly," Kelly said.

Luis Lopez, vice-consul of Ecuador in New York, said police kept the consulate informed about the investigation.

Christian Acuna, 35, Dennis Alves, 32, and Eduardo Moncayo were arraigned late on Wednesday and were being held without bail.

According to the criminal complaint, Moncayo said he met a man named Claudio Ordonez, known as "Doctor", and they agreed to kidnap Portugal. Moncayo is accused of flashing the fake police badge that caused Portugal to stop on the street.

The men were accused of being paid between $800 a week and $5,000 in total by Ordonez to stay with Portugal at the warehouse.

Ordonez was at large, as was an unknown man wearing a red sweatshirt who was captured on surveillance footage at a Chase bank in Manhattan trying to withdraw money from Portugal's account.

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