Conspirators in Mall Kidnapping Hoax Sentenced
URBANA, IL—The woman at the center of a hoax kidnapping from a Champaign, Ill., mall in June 2014, and her alleged kidnapper, were sentenced today, as announced by U.S. Attorney Jim Lewis, Central District of Illinois. Monica Adriana Zacatlan Ramirez, 20, of Urbana, was ordered to serve 18 months in federal prison. Eduardo Guerrero Cortez, 26, of Mexico, was sentenced to 10 months in prison. Both have remained detained in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service since their arrests in July 2014. In addition, both Ramirez and Cortez were ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $45,374, to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Champaign Police Department, the Champaign Sheriff’s Office and the Champaign County State’s Attorney for the time, resources and expenses each of these agencies spent in investigating the hoax kidnapping.
On Dec. 15, 2014, Ramirez pled guilty to conspiracy to provide law enforcement with false statements, making false statements to law enforcement and making false statements to a federal grand jury. On Dec. 19, 2014, Cortez pled guilty to the conspiracy. The third defendant, Jarbey Emerson Reyes Villalobos, 19, of Champaign, pled guilty on Feb. 15, 2015. Villalobos is scheduled for sentencing on May 29, before U.S. District Judge Colin S. Bruce. Villalobos has been in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service since his arrest on July 25, 2014.
Ramirez, Cortez and Villalobos admitted that they conspired to provide law enforcement with false statements regarding the nature of Ramirez’s kidnapping from Market Place Mall in Champaign on June 11, 2014. In fact, there was no force, threat or coercion involved in the kidnapping of Ramirez and she voluntarily consented, agreed, and participated in the planning of the hoax so that her willingness to be with Cortez would be concealed from her family members who did not approve of him.
To advance the scheme, prior to the hoax kidnapping, Ramirez petitioned the circuit court in Champaign for an emergency order of protection against Cortez. After the court granted the order of protection, Ramirez called Cortez and told him to pick her up from the Market Place Mall and make it appear that she was taken by force. Cortez recruited Villalobos, armed with a knife, and another individual, to go to the mall, collect Ramirez and put her into their vehicle. Villalobos threatened Ramirez’s companion and the defendants fled the area. From June 11 to June 14, Ramirez, Cortez and Villalobos traveled from Illinois to Texas.
The charges were investigated by the Champaign Police Department; the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Springfield and Houston Divisions; the Champaign County State’s Attorney’s Office; and, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Elly M. Peirson.