SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A woman who lured two men to locations in San Diego County, where they were beaten and held for ransom by members of the Mexican gang Los Palillos, was convicted Thursday of conspiracy and kidnapping charges.
Nancy Mendoza Moreno, 24, faces life in prison without the possibility of parole when she is sentenced Aug. 16, according to Deputy District Attorney James Fontaine.
Mendoza, described as an active member of Los Palillos, was convicted in the kidnapping of 58-year-old Jorge Garcia Vasquez, the brother-in-law of notorious cartel financier Jesus "Chuy" Labra, in early 2007.
Prosecutors said Mendoza - then 19 - joined a gym and asked Garcia for help, and he became her trainer. One day, the victim accompanied Mendoza on what he thought was an errand and was jumped at a traffic stop and taken to a stash house.
Garcia and Nunez were eventually released by their kidnappers, who netted about $1 million in ransom money, according to the prosecution.
Mendoza was also convicted of luring wealthy Mexican businessman Eduardo Gonzalez Tostado to a Chula Vista home in 2007, where he was held for eight days by members of Los Palillos.
Prosecutors said Mendoza met Gonzalez at a coffee shop on June 8, 2007, and immediately lured him to the South Bay home with a false hope the two would be intimate. Instead, Gonzalez was beaten by masked gunmen wearing police uniforms who turned out to be members of Los Palillos, Fontaine said.
The victim's family put together nearly $194,000 to pay the ransom, and a tracking device placed in a container with the money led to five defendants, who were arrested on June 16, 2007, as they tried to drive away during the victim's rescue.
Fontaine said Mendoza was paid $15,000 for luring Gonzalez to his abductors.
Jurors acquitted Mendoza of a third kidnapping-for-ransom charge stemming from the October 2006 abduction of Eric Nunez Ochoa, the prosecutor said.
Another Los Palillos gang member, Jose Olivera Beritan was convicted in May of the 2007 kidnap-murders of three men in San Diego County. Los Palillos member David Valencia was convicted in two of those murders in which the victims' bodies were dissolved in acid.
Four other alleged members of Los Palillos, Edgar Frausto Lopez, Jorge Salvador Moreno, Jorge Rojas Lopez and Juan Estrada Gonzalez, are scheduled to stand trial later this year. They face the death penalty if convicted.
Rojas Lopez and Estrada Gonzalez - who was romantically linked to Mendoza - were convicted of the kidnapping counts and are serving life sentences.
Four college basketball coaches were among those facing federal charges Tuesday in a wide probe of fraud and corruption in the NCAA, authorities said. Including former SDSU assistant coach Tony Bland now of the University of Southern California.
The San Diego County Board of Supervisors will consider Monday a proposal banning certain items that could be used as weapons in unincorporated areas where border wall prototypes are set to be constructed.
A powerful wildfire swept through the well-populated suburban canyons of Southern California, creeping up to the edges of homes and down to the shoulder of a major freeway.
A woman who was hit by a pick-up Friday night as she crossed Encinitas Boulevard to catch a train remained in critical condition on Monday.
A 29-year-old man was stabbed to death at a City Heights homeless encampment and a woman was hospitalized Tuesday with a stab wound from the same attack as police searched for the assailant, authorities said.
The City of Chula Vista is making a push to hire more officers as the city's population continues to steadily grow and the police department said it does not have enough officers to keep pace.
A fire at an East County condominium complex damaged two residential units Monday and left a woman seriously injured, authorities reported.