Not guilty plea by woman accused of luring Mexican businessman to abduction site

SAN DIEGO (CNS) – A young woman accused of luring a wealthy Mexican businessman to a Chula Vista home, where he was held for ransom for eight days by Mexican gang members, pleaded not guilty Wednesday to kidnapping and conspiracy charges.

Nancy Michelle Mendoza Moreno, 22, was arrested last August in Mexico and extradited to San Diego to face charges in the 2007 case, said Deputy District Attorney James Fontaine.

Moreno was ordered held without bail. She faces life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted of kidnapping for ransom with bodily injury and conspiracy to commit kidnapping for ransom.

Fontaine told Judge John Einhorn that Moreno was introduced to Mexican businessman Eduardo Gonzalez-Tostado and lured him to the South Bay home on June 8, 2007.

Gonzalez-Tostado was beaten into submission by masked gunmen wearing police uniforms, who turned out to be members of the Los Palillos Mexican gang, 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 cash led to five defendants, who were arrested on June 16, 2007, as they tried to drive away during the victim's rescue.

Jorge Rojas Lopez and Juan Francisco Estrada-Gonzalez were convicted of the crimes and sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Both defendants — along with other alleged members of Los Palillos — were indicted in 2009 and charged with carrying out Tijuana-style murders and kidnappings in San Diego County.

Authorities said Los Palillos, which is Spanish for “toothpicks,” is responsible for at least nine murders from 2004 to 2007. The remains of two of the victims, partially dissolved in acid, were found in May 2007 in a rented home in San Diego, according to authorities.

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