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Abductors possibly bilked of millions

The grandfather of a 6-year-old snatched in Vegas allegedly stole the money from meth dealers from Mexico.

October 18, 2008|Ashley Powers | Times Staff Writer

LAS VEGAS — Police officials said Friday that a group of men may have kidnapped a 6-year-old boy here this week because his grandfather allegedly stole millions of dollars from Mexican methamphetamine dealers, a violent retaliatory tactic rarely seen north of the border.

Cole Puffinburger -- 48 pounds, nearly 4 feet tall, blond, blue-eyed and wearing silver-rimmed glasses -- was abducted Wednesday by two or three Latino men with "heavy accents" who posed as police officers, tied up the boy's mother and her boyfriend and ransacked their home looking for money.

"They got the attention of an entire nation. We will not stop looking for this child," Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Capt. Vincent Cannito told reporters Friday. The agency is working with the FBI, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Though trafficking-related kidnappings are relatively common in Mexico -- where drug-related violence is blamed for about 3,500 deaths this year -- they rarely occur in the United States, law enforcement officials said.

Las Vegas serves as a way station for drugs headed to the Midwest and California, officials said, and has its own sizable demand for methamphetamine. But traffickers usually seize cars and other assets to recoup money.

On Friday, police named Cole's grandfather, Clemens Fred Tinnemeyer, as a "person of interest" in the investigation. Tinnemeyer, 51, purportedly owed the drug dealers $8 million to $20 million, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Investigators also were looking into whether other family members may have been involved in drug operations.

In a 2001 bankruptcy filing, Tinnemeyer and his wife listed $226,500 in assets and about $329,000 in liabilities. They had three mortgages on their Las Vegas home and tens of thousands of dollars in credit card debt.

Tinnemeyer had worked as a carpenter for more than two decades, according to the bankruptcy filing. He and his wife, then a food preparer and custodian at the local school district, made about $3,800 a month.

The bankruptcy filing said that in 2000 an ex-partner had stolen $80,000 in studio equipment from them.

Public records link Tinnemeyer in recent years to businesses named Bomber Records Inc., C&C Weston Inc. and Salita Records Inc.

Tinnemeyer left Las Vegas in May in a beige-and-gold motor home, according to a missing-person flier. When he last contacted a family member, the flier said, he was in Tennessee.

Tinnemeyer's vehicle now is a white 2004 Dodge extended-cab pickup with Mississippi plates, police said Friday.

Cole was last seen wearing a black T-shirt, jeans, black Vans shoes and a black, zip-up, hooded sweat shirt with black, blue and white stars.

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ashley.powers@latimes.com

Times staff writer Scott Glover and researcher Robin Mayper in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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