Men face charges in kidnapping at San Juan church

Cipriano Vargas and Ricardo Sanchez

Two Rio Grande City men face federal kidnapping charges related to their alleged involvement in an incident in which an Edinburg man was held against his will, records show.

Last week Ricardo Sanchez and Cipriano Vargas made their respective initial appearances before a federal magistrate related to an August 2020 incident in which government prosecutors allege they held a man against his will, according to the unsealed indictment against them.

The indictment further stated that the incident was related to a property dispute.

According to the news release from the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office at the time of the alleged incident; Sanchez and Vargas were two of six men authorities said held a 21-year-old man against his will over the property dispute.

On Aug. 17, 2020, the defendants coaxed a 21-year-old Edinburg man to the Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle in San Juan, where they allegedly beat him before taking him to another location by threatening him with a gun.

The alleged victim was subsequently “rescued” as a result of a traffic stop when they pulled over a “suspicious vehicle” driven by Sanchez.

Texas Department of Public Safety troopers working in the 3900 block of Albanian Street as part of a narcotics investigation pulled over the defendants, and the man they had taken by force as they left a residence in the area.

“As DPS Troopers interviewed (Sanchez), they observed the front passenger, a 21-year-old male requesting for Troopers to help him. Troopers quickly learned the 21-year-old man was being held against his will,” the release from the sheriff’s office stated at the time. “The victim claimed he was bound with black electrical tape and beaten.”

Authorities identified Sanchez as the driver and Vargas, 21, was a passenger sitting in the rear seat of the vehicle.

Ultimately, authorities arrested four others located at the residence Sanchez and Vargas left moments before they were pulled over.

The release from the sheriff’s office at the time stated that a search warrant led to the discovery of two firearms and “other items” they say were used to restrain the 21-year-old.

The federal indictment against the two men, filed in February, alleges the men “willfully and unlawfully seize(d), confine(d), inveigle(d), decoy, kidnap, abduct, carry away,” the alleged victim for ransom or reward.

In addition to the federal charges, the two men face state aggravated kidnapping charges. Both are set for trial in state district court in November, court records show.