US Extradites Mexican Smuggler Who Threatened to Sever 8-Year-Old Girl’s Fingers


MCALLEN, TX—A federal fugitive sentenced to life in prison for his role in a hostage-taking conspiracy has been returned to the United States after his capture in Mexico by Mexican authorities. Luis Gerardo Betancourt, previously residing in Pharr, Texas, was apprehended by Mexican authorities in October 2017 and returned to the United States at the Columbia Port of Entry, Laredo, Texas late in the evening on Friday, February 2.

Following a five-day trial, on March 30, 2017 a federal jury sitting in McAllen convicted Betancourt, in absentia, of conspiracy to commit hostage taking and conspiracy to transport undocumented aliens.

The investigation began Dec. 4, 2015, when authorities learned of people in other states being forced to pay for the release of family members being held hostage at an undetermined location. Testimony at trial revealed that an individual had paid approximately $17,000 for such release. The jury heard that some family members received threats such as to cut off body parts and kill the hostages, one of whom was an eight-year-old victim, if monetary demands were not met. Further investigation revealed Betancourt’s involvement in the conspiracy. The jury heard that he was responsible for recruiting and transporting co-conspirators as well as the receipt of money sent by the victims’ family members.

On July 12, 2017 , U.S. District Judge Randy Crane, who presided over the trial, sentenced Betancourt to life in federal prison for conspiracy to commit hostage taking and 10 years for conspiracy to transport aliens.

“The apprehension and return of the defendant highlights the outstanding law enforcement collaboration among agencies in the United States and Mexico, and demonstrates the bilateral tenacity involved with bringing those who threaten our communities to justice,” stated FBI Special Agent in Charge Christopher Combs, San Antonio Division.