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Smuggler who held Salvadoran teen for ransom sentenced to 30 months

A Mexican man was sentenced to 30 months in prison on Tuesday in federal court for holding a teenage boy for ransom, following an investigation by federal agents in Los Phoenix and Los Angeles

Pedro Chavez-Bautista, 35, pleaded guilty to the charges in June, stemming from his role in a human smuggling case when he and several other men conspired to hold a 17-year-old Salvadoran boy in a Phoenix-area home. 

The boy, identified only as C.D. in court papers, was transported across the U.S.-Mexico border in late December, as part of an agreement between the boy's mother and smugglers. 

However, when the boy was transported to Phoenix, the smugglers attempted to extort $4,000 from the family, threatening to starve and beat the boy if the family did not meet their demands. 

Agents with Homeland Security Investigations, a part of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, in offices in Phoenix and Los Angeles were able to trace the cellphones of the men and eventually tracked the calls to a Phoenix-area home, where the boy was being held. 

Chavez was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Murray Snow, who added eight months to the sentence because he had violated the conditions of a supervised release in 2014, stemming from charges for illegally re-entering the country after a previous deportation. 

According to court documents, sometime in November 2015 a woman identified in court records only as R. Delgado and her husband, identified as C. de Leon Reyes, arranged to have C.D. smuggled from El Salvador into the United States and transported to Los Angeles. 

On Nov. 14 of that year, she sent $1,500 to the smuggling organization, and then 10 days later, sent two more payments of $1,500, for a total of $4,500. She also agreed to pay an additional $1,000 when her son was brought safely to Los Angeles by a man, identified at the time only as "Santos." 

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Nearly a month later, on Dec. 17, she received a phone call from a phone number in Phoenix and a man told her in Spanish that her son, identified only as C.D. was being held there, and that if she didn't wire another $4,000 her son would be beaten and food would be withheld. 

Delgado called the police. 

In court documents, Jeffery Robertson, a Special Agent with Homeland Security Investigations in Phoenix, said that police officers interviewed the boy's mother and father, and then placed a monitored call to one of the Phoenix-area phone numbers. 

The man on the other end explained that "Santos" hadn't paid them, and thus, they need to wire the additional funds. If they did not, they would be charged a daily fee of $100 to cover "housing expenses," Robertson said. 

The boy's father, Reyes said that the family was attempting to find the money, and that they could pay on Dec. 21 or 22. 

On Tuesday, Dec. 22, the family received another call, demanding that $4,000 be deposited into an account, and that the money was taking too long. 

Police officers received a warrant and traced the calls to two phones. The first was in Mexico and the second was linked to a Phoenix-area home. 

In Phoenix, officers were sent to observe the home. They tracked a white Chevrolet Silverado driven by Chavez. The officers continued to trace the cellphones, and at one point, Delgado called one of the phones and asked to speak to her son, C.D. 

Officers, assured that C.D. and one of callers were in the vehicle, pulled the Silverado over and took all four people inside into custody. 

During interviews, C.D. said that he and a brother and sister were held by the men in the Phoenix-area home. 

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However, agents did not find anyone else in the home at the time. 

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