Guatemalan Man Pleads Guilty to Kidnapping Minor Girl He Smuggled into SC

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David Hucks
David Hucks
David Hucks is a 12th generation descendant of the area we now call Myrtle Beach, S.C. David attended Coastal Carolina University and like most of his family, has never left the area. David is the lead journalist at
Adair Ford Boroughs

SPARTANBURG, S.C. — Bernardino de Jesus Ramirez-Ramirez, a/k/a Carlos Mendoza, 35, a Guatemalan man, pleaded guilty to kidnapping and illegal transportation of an alien following two days of trial in federal court.

Evidence introduced during the trial revealed that in October 2022, Ramirez paid for a 16-year-old girl to be smuggled into the United States from Guatemala. Ramirez directed the minor’s journey into the United States. He instructed her to turn herself in to immigration officials after she crossed the border and provide them his name and contact information as the person who was supposed to receive her. The minor was taken into the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement and placed in a shelter for unaccompanied alien children.

Officials at the shelter learned that the minor was not related to Ramirez and had never met him before, that he had paid her smuggling debt, and that he had work lined up for her in the United States.  They determined Ramirez posed a risk of labor trafficking and was not a suitable sponsor for the minor. In March 2023, they released the minor to an uncle in South Carolina.

A forensic examination of Ramirez’s phone revealed that he was fixated on gaining control over the minor. For months, he exchanged messages with members of the minor’s family regarding her smuggling debt and indicating he would do whatever it took to get her into his custody.  He told the minor that because of the “favor” he extended her in helping her get to the United States, she had to live with him. He also told her that if she stayed with her uncle in South Carolina, her smuggling debt, and the interest on it, would increase. 

On April 5, 2023, Ramirez drove from Missouri to the victim’s home in South Carolina and told her that if she did not come with him, she would be deported back to Guatemala. The victim, believing her debt would be increased and she would be deported if she did not go along, agreed to leave with Ramirez. He drove her to his home in Kansas City, Missouri, where she was recovered by law enforcement officials the following day. 

Every child deserves to grow up in a safe environment, free from the threat of harm,” said Adair F. Boroughs, U.S. Attorney for the District of South Carolina. “Crimes that exploit and endanger our young people will be met with swift accountability.

“Finding and stopping predators like Ramirez, who seek to exploit minors, is one of the highest priorities of our office,” said Kyle D. Burns, Acting Special Agent in Charge of HSI Charlotte, which covers North and South Carolina. “Rescuing this victim saved her from unspeakable horrors and I am thankful for the great work done on this case and the amazing support of our law enforcement partners.”

Ramirez faces a maximum penalty of life in federal prison. He also faces a fine of up to $500,000 and at least three years of supervision to follow the term of imprisonment. United States District Judge Donald C. Coggins presided over the trial, accepted the guilty plea, and will sentence Ramirez after receiving and reviewing a sentencing report prepared by the U.S. Probation Office.

The case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, and the Newberry Police Department, with assistance from the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office and the Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Carrie Fisher Sherard and Kathleen Stoughton are prosecuting the case.

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