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Abducted Man Freed by U.S., Mexican Police

October 21, 1994|SEBASTIAN ROTELLA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

TIJUANA — Mexican and U.S. investigators teamed up Thursday to arrest nine accused kidnapers and rescue a San Diego businessman who had been abducted this week from his factory here.

After three suspects picked up $200,000 in ransom money at a pedestrian bridge south of the San Ysidro international border crossing, Baja state judicial police officers swooped in and arrested them Thursday, authorities said. They then raided a house in a tough Tijuana neighborhood and liberated Peter Barabas, 57.

Mexico has been plagued by spectacular kidnapings of wealthy executives, and a surge in abductions-for-ransom caused Baja authorities to create a special anti-kidnaping unit this year. But FBI spokeswoman Jan Caldwell said kidnapings of U.S. citizens south of the border remain unusual.

The cross-border investigation benefited from good communications and fast teamwork by the FBI and Mexican police, Caldwell said.

Barabas, unhurt during his two-day ordeal, owns a business in the San Diego suburb of Chula Vista and a picture frame factory in the heavily industrial Otay Mesa area of Tijuana. He was kidnaped Tuesday at or near his Tijuana factory by four men armed with pistols, authorities said.

Barabas' family in San Diego then received a series of phone calls demanding a ransom and giving instructions for dropping off the money. The family contacted the FBI, which along with Mexican police set up surveillance on both sides of the San Ysidro border crossing Thursday afternoon.

After arresting the suspects with the money, Mexican police arrested two more suspects in a nearby car, Caldwell said. The trail then led to the Grupo Mexico neighborhood and the arrests of four suspects holding Barabas.

The alleged kidnapers, eight men and a woman, may be connected to a kidnaping ring from the state of Nayarit that has been active in Baja, authorities said. The suspects face charges of kidnaping and extortion in Mexico.

Barabas was reunited with his wife at the Tijuana headquarters of the state judicial police, Caldwell said.

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