Three South Florida men are facing federal kidnapping charges after they allegedly abducted the wrong man and proceeded to waterboard him inside a local Airbnb.
Federal prosecutors claim that on the evening of October 13, brothers Jeffry and Jonathan Arista and Raymond Gomez snatched the man as he was leaving his Fort Lauderdale home, forcing him into a white Dodge charger with sham police lights, blindfolding him, and transporting him to a rental unit in Plantation to shake him down for cash they claimed to be owed. One of the kidnappers was disguised as a police officer, wearing a gold badge and a tactical vest, according to the arrest affidavit.
Shortly after arriving at the Airbnb, the kidnappers realized they'd mistakenly kidnapped their intended target's coworker, the affidavit states.
Rather than freeing the man, the affidavit alleges, the trio tortured him by pointing guns at his head, placing a power drill to his skin, and threatening to kill him. They allegedly waterboarded him, covering his face with "four or five black masks," then pouring bucketfuls of water on him in the Airbnb's bathroom.
"The victim thought he was going to drown," the affidavit states.
Both Arista siblings and Gomez have been charged with kidnapping and conspiracy to kidnap. Each faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Upon learning that their intended target was at a business in Pompano Beach, Gomez drove the group there in a black Porsche and directed the victim to lure the man out so they could "arrange to kidnap him instead," prosecutors say. NBC6 identified the business as a popular Pompano Beach strip club where the intended target worked.
Around 2 a.m. on October 14, police responded to the business in response to a "bomb threat," according to the affidavit. Upon arrival, they discovered that the victim had called in the threat in hopes of getting a rapid response.
According to the affidavit, while communicating with an officer, the victim noticed Jeffry Arista in the distance "appearing to record him with a cell phone." He told the police, and Jeffry Arista was swiftly taken into custody.
Gomez fled the scene in the Porsche before ultimately crashing into a nearby car, the affidavit states. Jonathan Arista was spotted walking away from the car before police caught up with him.
Gomez allegedly hid behind a bush, then made his way toward a bus station, eluding officers for several hours. After police apprehended him, he allegedly told investigators that he and the Arista brothers devised the kidnapping scheme to collect a debt for another individual, whose identity Gomez claimed not to know.
"Gomez admitted that, after kidnapping the victim at gunpoint and bringing him to the residence, he and the Arista brothers realized that they had kidnapped the wrong person," the affidavit states.
The Aristas had their initial appearances in federal court yesterday.