Authorities shut down violent 'rip crew' in Southern Arizona

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VEKOL VALLEY, Ariz. -- Detectives from the Illegal Immigration Prevention Apprehension Co-op Team (IIMPACT) arrested four Mexican nationals accused of kidnapping illegal immigrants, assaulting them and holding them for ransom.

The so-called rip crew abducted several undocumented immigrants in the desert near Vekol Valley in Pinal County last month, according to a Department of Public Safety news release. The suspects threatened to shoot the victims if they did not follow instructions.

The victims were forced into a van and transported to Phoenix. The suspects used a victim's phone to call family members and extort money for the victim's release.

The victims told IIMPACT detectives that they were hit and threatened with death if their families did not pay.

Two of the four rip crew suspects were arrested previously.

Surveillance was recently conducted on a house near Garfield and 11th Street and the third suspect was taken into custody as he walked to a convenience store. He identified two other suspects who were at the home.

Detectives apprehended one of the suspects at the house. The other suspect was arrested after a short foot pursuit. They were taken into custody for other charges.

After interviews, the fourth rip crew suspect was identified as a person who was previously arrested by Phoenix police and is currently in custody.

A search warrant was served at the home and in the attic detectives found nine bales of marijuana weighing 160 pounds. In addition, a .38-caliber revolver, .38 semi-automatic, ledgers and numerous cell phones were seized.

"These 'Bajadores' or rip crews need to be eradicated," said DPS Director Robert Halliday. "Not only do they seek to profit from illegal immigration, they frequently use violence to achieve their goals."

"Our nation's porous southern border has enabled criminal enterprises such as this to operate in our neighborhoods and communities," Gov. Jan Brewer said. "As this case demonstrates, these operations are a danger to all Arizonans -- including the human cargo being trafficked across our border."

IIMPACT includes detectives from the Department of Public Safety, Phoenix Police Department and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.