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Seized: Inside the Brutal World of America's Kidnapping Capital

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Inside the west Phoenix house where they took him, the kidnappers tied Andrade to a chair in a bloody closet, which apparently had been used to torture previous victims. He could hear screams as kidnappers unleashed horrific attacks on hostages locked up in other rooms. Like them, Andrade endured ferocious assaults. While his girlfriend listened on the phone at one point, they burned his back with cigarettes and a blowtorch. They stabbed his hand, cut his ears and fingers with scissors, attempted to rip his eye out of its socket, and split open his eyebrow.

Then, they ordered him to bend over.

When he refused, the attackers rained blows on him and forced his legs apart. Andrade's blood-curdling screams elicited no mercy from the men as they rammed him with a broomstick, a pair of scissors, and a thick wooden dowel, shredding his colon. Andrade endured four days of such torture before police were able to track down the kidnappers and rescue him.

Andrade recovered and was allowed to stay in the United States to testify against one of his tormentors, now serving a 54-year prison sentence in Arizona.

In another case, a 32-year-old migrant was kidnapped last October by two gunmen who demanded $100,000 from his family. Police believe the victim was involved with smugglers, which explains why his family never reported his abduction.

For more than a week, he was locked inside the bedroom of a Phoenix home without food or water. He overheard his captors say they were tired of waiting for the ransom. They said they were going to bury him alive in a makeshift grave inside the house. Using a concrete saw, the men cut through the foundation and dug a six-foot grave inside a bedroom. While the men tore through the ground, the man managed to free himself through a window. He ran down the street to a nearby house, called police, and the kidnappers were soon arrested by HIKE detectives.

Though he escaped death at the hands of smugglers the first time, he may not have been so lucky after his deportation. He was found murdered a week later in Mexico.

Though the Phoenix area isn't like Mexico — where crime syndicates make fortunes kidnapping random powerful and rich people (or sometimes their children) and extorting their families — innocent victims have been kidnapped locally.

An illegal immigrant, who had lived in Phoenix for about 10 years, had just stepped off a bus. It was a hot August day last year, and he was walking to his home near 32nd Street and Camelback Road. A van pulled up beside him, and men with guns jumped out and forced him inside the vehicle. They sped away to a drop house near 24th Street and McDowell Road. The man was locked up for four days before his family was able to scrounge together the $2,800 ransom. Once they paid it, he was freed.

The man went to police and led IIMPACT detectives to the house where he had been held. Police later learned that the victim was grabbed off the street because one of 11 undocumented immigrants whom the kidnappers were holding hostage had escaped. They had to replace the escapee or pay their boss the ransom out of their own pockets.

Cops arrested two suspects and rescued 10 pollos. They turned over the hostages — including the random kidnapping victim who had led them to the drop house — to federal immigration agents.

About 3 a.m. on May 5, four men with handguns stormed a Maryvale home where U.S. citizens Estephany Sauceda, her infant child, and her mentally challenged 22-year-old sister, Karely, were sleeping. The men demanded drugs and money, saying they were looking for "the man with the white car." Sauceda told them that they didn't have any drugs or cash. Investigators believe that the men were looking to collect on a drug debt, possibly for 1,300 pounds of marijuana that had been stolen from them. Sauceda's boyfriend had ties to the suspected thieves, but he had been in jail for more than a month on unrelated charges.

The intruders didn't care. One way or another, they would recover their losses. The gunmen decided to kidnap Sauceda, but she told them she had to take care of her baby. So they took Karely, who has the mental capacity of a 12-year-old. The kidnappers held Karely hostage in a house at 48th Street and Baseline Road, demanding $50,000 from her family.

The captors assaulted the girl and threatened to cut off her fingers if the money wasn't paid. After nine days, HIKE detectives found the dwelling, and on May 19, a SWAT team burst in and freed Karley.

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Monica Alonzo
Contact: Monica Alonzo