Three men affiliated with a Mexican drug cartel kidnapped a South Carolina man in a dispute over drug debt, authorities said Wednesday.
The kidnapped man was involved in delivering cocaine, marijuana and money throughout South Carolina and North Carolina, according to a complaint filed in federal court.
The 23-year old man received about $200,000 worth of marijuana from the cartel and delivered it to another dealer, but he could not repay the cartel, according to court papers. Authorities are not sure whether he stole the marijuana or was ripped off by the dealer.
The kidnapping began early July 9 when the three men, posing as police officers, pulled the man over as he was going to work in his hometown of St. Matthews, about 30 miles southeast of Columbia.
FBI agent Dave Thomas says the kidnappers abducted the man and sent ransom demands to the man’s family within hours of his disappearance and continued for several days.
He was found in Roseboro, North Carolina, about 160 miles northeast of his hometown.
The FBI released few details about the plot. The statement said it was an elaborate plot with ties overseas. Agents say they aren’t releasing the victim’s name to protect his safety.
He is currently not in custody and does not face any charges.
“Right now he’s a victim, and we will have to look at that very carefully,” said FBI agent David Thomas, who is in charge of the Columbia office.
The FBI says Juan Manuel Fuentes-Morales, Ruben Ceja-Rangel, Luis Castro Villeda appeared in federal court in Raleigh on Wednesday on a charge of conspiracy to kidnap.