Friday 22 September 2017

'Femme fatale' tells court it's all a case of mistaken identity

David Usborne in San Diego

She is alluring, but the story being told about her now in a San Diego courtroom is not.

When the trial of Nancy Mendoza Moreno (24), pictured, is over it will be for the jury to decide. Is she the woman who honey-trapped wealthy businessmen so they could be kidnapped for ransom or was it someone else?

The defence's case is that the authorities simply have the wrong woman. Ms Mendoza was arrested in Tijuana, Mexico, in 2010, extradited to the US and charged with kidnapping and conspiracy.

She has pleaded not guilty. But prosecutors insist she is the femme fatale who ensnared victims for a drugs gang known as Los Palillos, or "toothpicks", that stalked San Diego until it was broken up in 2007.

"She was used as a lure successfully, repeatedly," Deputy District Attorney James Fontaine said at the start of a trial that is expected to last about another week.

One alleged victim who has been among a parade of prosecution witnesses on the stand is Eduardo Gonzalez Tostado (31) a local businessman.

The details of what happened to Mr Gonzalez are not in dispute. It's a predictable he-should-have-known-better story, until the moment it isn't.

Pretty

Pretty girl chats him up; gives him a phone number and invites him to a home. Then men in ski-masks pounce and stuff him into a tiny room where he remains for eight days until his family delivers $193,000 (€156,821) in ransom cash.

Mr Gonzalez had feared being kidnapped for some time and had told his wife to contact the FBI should the worst happen. Agents slipped a transponder into the ransom case and tracked it to the home where Mr Gonzalez was held.

It was the beginning of the end for the toothpick gang. (Independent News Service)

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