Cobb: Kidnapping hoax costly
SPRINGFIELD — A Champaign woman who allegedly faked her own kidnapping from a Champaign shopping mall and conspired with two other men to carry it out remains in the custody of federal authorities as do her alleged kidnappers.
Monica Ramirez, 19, and her two hoax kidnappers — Eduardo G. Cortez, 25, of Houston, and Jarbey E. Reyes Villalobos, 18, of Champaign — were indicted Wednesday by a federal grand jury in Springfield for conspiring to provide law enforcement with false statements.
Ramirez is also charged with two counts of perjury for allegedly lying about details to a federal grand jury on July 2.
The trio had been previously charged in a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Urbana late last month.
State court charges that had been filed against Cortez and Villalobos were dismissed July 28 when the federal authorities took over the case.
Ramirez was allegedly kidnapped from outside the Market Place Mall in Champaign on the afternoon of June 11 and taken to Houston, where she was found with Cortez, an ex-boyfriend, several days later.
If convicted, each of them faces up to five years in prison and $250,000 in fines.
The indictments were the result of 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, all of whom expressed outrage over the waste of resources expended on the investigation.
“Our justice system expects the truth,” said U.S. Attorney Jim Lewis. “When someone willfully lies to police, then willfully lies again under oath to a federal grand jury about a potential kidnapping, those lies damage the justice system, those lies harm law enforcement that is ready to help, and those lies harm other victims who rely on the police.”
“Ms. Ramirez allegedly orchestrated a hoax that selfishly squandered numerous investigative hours and law enforcement manpower,” said Gary Hartwig, special agent in charge for Homeland Security Investigations in Chicago. “As this indictment demonstrates, those who brazenly lie to law enforcement and waste precious police resources will be held accountable for their crimes.
“The Champaign Police Department expended significant time and expense in appropriately responding to this false kidnapping report,” added Champaign Police Chief Anthony Cobb. “The effort spent on this investigation kept several of our detectives busy for many days and made it more difficult for us to investigate crime reports filed by legitimate victims.”
According to the indictment, 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 that fact from her family and current boyfriend.
To bolster the scheme, she even appeared in Champaign County Circuit Court on the morning of the day she was kidnapped seeking an emergency order of protection. In her petition, she alleged that Cortez had been violent with her current boyfriend, Alexander Aburto, 22, of Urbana, a few days earlier in a laundromat. A Champaign County judge granted the order.
After getting the order, she told Cortez to meet her at Market Place and to make it look like she was being taken by force. Cortez got Villalobos and another unidentified man to help. There they confronted Ramirez and Aburto, threatening physical harm to Aburto before leaving in a truck. Villalobos allegedly held a knife to Aburto’s neck. His truck tires were also slashed.
Ramirez, Cortez and Villalobos then traveled to Texas. Authorities found Ramirez and Cortez there three days later.
The conspiracy to lie to law enforcement alleges that between June 11 and July 16 all three gave false information about the “kidnapping” to authorities.
Regarding her lies to the grand jury, authorities said Ramirez denied talking to Cortez four times on the day of the kidnapping when phone records showed that she had.