Woman accused of faking her own kidnapping
URBANA — A woman who was said to have been kidnapped at Market Place Mall in June was complicit in the scheme and in fact devised the hoax with her alleged kidnappers, a federal prosecutor said on Friday.
Monica Ramirez, who was believed to have been kidnapped in Champaign on June 11 and taken to Houston, allegedly lied to investigators in an attempt to hide from her friends and family that she wanted to be with her ex-boyfriend in Houston, according to a press release from U.S. Attorney Jim Lewis.
Ramirez, 19, and her two hoax kidnappers — Eduardo G. Cortez, 25, of Houston, and Jarbey E. Reyes, 18, of Champaign — appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge David Bernthal in Urbana on Friday. The three remain in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service, and the two men are being held on a detainer from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
If convicted, they could each face up to five years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines for concealing a material fact in connection with the interstate kidnapping.
The charges follow a monthlong investigation by the Champaign Police Department, the FBI in Springfield and Houston, the Champaign County State's Attorney and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations.
According to the complaint, Ramirez allegedly lied to investigators about designing her own kidnapping. She wanted to be with her ex-boyfriend Cortez, investigators alleged, but wanted to hide her consent from her family and current boyfriend.
She was with her current boyfriend, Alexander Aburto, 22, of Urbana, on June 11 at Market Place Mall when they were approached shortly after 4 p.m. by three men, two of whom were later identified as Cortez and Reyes. The identity of the third man has not been made public.
Reyes allegedly held a knife to Aburto's throat while the others allegedly forced Ramirez into a pickup truck. Reyes also allegedly slashed the tires on Aburto's vehicle before they drove off with Ramirez.
Cortez and Ramirez were found in Houston three days later. Ramirez maintained the lie in fear of losing custody of her child, according to the federal complaint.
Reyes, who listed an address in the first block of Rain Tree Drive, Champaign, is also due for another court appearance in September in Champaign County Circuit Court, where he is charged with aggravated battery and armed kidnapping, a class X felony. Cortez, of Houston, is due for a circuit court appearance on Aug. 5 for aggravated battery.