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Trucker Accused of Kidnapping Mexican Migrant and Threatening to Hang His Body from a Bridge

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

Jose Jaime Garcia-Escamilla managed to escape thanks to a well-timed visit by a hotel employee to the hotel room where he was being held captive.

U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona

An Arizona trucker stands accused of kidnapping an undocumented migrant trying to make his way from the U.S.-Mexico border to Pennsylvania, then tormenting his captive with a replica AR-15, a stun gun, and a knife, all the while threatening to leave him in the desert to die, and kill him and hang his body from a bridge" unless he came up with $30,000, according to federal court records reviewed by ishonest.

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After four days, the hostage, named in an affidavit as Mexican national Jose Jaime Garcia-Escamilla, managed to inform workers of his plight at the high desert motel where he was being held hostage, and pleaded for them to call police.

Asylum seekers and other undocumented migrants have long told horror stories of their own experiences being held hostage by human smugglers while their families are extorted for ransoms. Some are physically abused during their trips north, others raped, robbed, or even killed. Few perpetrators reportedly end up facing justice for their crimes.

Garcia-Escamillas harrowing ordeal began on the evening of Nov. 30, when he and five others climbed a border fence near Douglas, Arizona, and began walking through the Sonoran desert. Along the way, three other members of the group fell behind their guide and got lost, according to Garcia-Escamillas account of the journey.

A little while later, Garcia-Escamilla and another person making the dangerous crossborder trek were picked up by a white truck and taken to a house 30 minutes away. They were then stashed in a small room attached to the property to hide out, according to a criminal complaint filed in the case.

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The next day, a chubby male, with salt and pepper hair, identified as 44-year- old Clifford Lee Tanner, showed up in a gray Dodge Durango and drove the pair to Phoenix, the complaint states. Upon their arrival, Tanner met up with someone in a white van, and an argument over payment ensued. Tanner then retrieved a black AR-15 pistol from beneath the drivers seat and pointed it at the driver of the white van before driving away in an erratic fashion, as Garcia-Escamilla and the second migrant sat in the back, the complaint alleges.

A short time later, the driver met up with a relative of the second migrant, who handed over an envelope of cash, the complaint continues. Tanner then drove to California, where the second man was dropped off. Tanner informed Garcia- Escamilla that he would take him to his destination in Pennsylvania for $9,000. But when Garcia-Escamilla balked, Tanner drove him to Tucson instead.

According to the complaint, Tanner continuously threatened [Garcia-Escamilla] with violence and told him things like he would abandon him, leave him in the desert to die, and kill him and hang his body from a bridge. Tanner also continuously tormented [Garcia-Escamilla] with a stun gun and a knife, the complaint says. When Tanner later stopped at a gas station, Garcia-Escamilla unsuccessfully tried to escape. But Garcia-Escamilla got back in the SUV after Tanner pointed the AR-15 at his chest and threatened to kill him, according to the complaint.

Apparently enraged, the complaint says Tanner jacked up the price of freedom for Garcia-Escamilla, telling him that he can forget going to Pennsylvania, that the cost of his release would now be $30,000, and that Garcia-Escamilla worked for [Tanner] now.

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Tanner drove to a local Travelodge and rented two rooms for the night, states the complaint. He told Garcia-Escamilla to take a shower and get some sleep while Tanner made himself comfortable nearby.

The following day, a hotel employee knocked on Garcia-Escamillas door and told him it was time to check out. Thats when a terrified Garcia-Escamilla asked the worker to call the police and tell them he was being held against his will, the complaint explains. Officers arrived a short time later, and transported Garcia- Escamilla to a nearby Border Patrol station.

As Garcia-Escamilla recounted his story to agents, another Border Patrol unit went to the Travelodge to investigate. They spotted a gray Durango in the parking lot, and after Garcia-Escamilla identified Tanner as the man who had kidnapped him, Tanner was arrested.

In an interview with the Border Patrol, Tanner claimed that he had been instructed to pick up four of them near Douglas, on Dec. 1. He said he made the trip at 4 a.m. that morning, and used a night-vision device to spot his passengers.

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He stated he only found two of them and he felt sorry for them because they were freezing and in bad shape, states the complaint. Tanner stated he didnt know what happened to the other two, whether they stayed out there in the desert or froze to death.

Tanner claimed he hadnt ever threatened Garcia-Escamilla, except for a moment when the kid seemed scared and he told him to sit down, according to the filing. Tanner denied pointing the gun at [Garcia-Escamilla] but admitted that [Garcia-Escamilla] knew he had it.

Tanner then confessed that he had worked for the same alien smuggling organization previously, telling agents that his first job for the group involved collecting payment for 30,000-40,000 pills from someone on the south side of Tucson and sending the money to Nogales, Mexico.

In court, prosecutors argued against Tanner being released on bail, citing his lengthy criminal history.

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Aside from an incident in 2007, Tanner, who had worked as a truck driver but whose commercial license had since lapsed, committed each new crime while either on state probation or federal supervised release, according to the motion.

Tanner, who claimed he and his girlfriend are expecting a baby, was indicted on Dec. 29 on charges of transportation of illegal aliens for profit, and conspiracy to transport illegal aliens for profit.

In a motion of their own, Tanners public defenders, Elena M. Kay and Angeles Rodriguez-Madera, said Tanner intends to fight the charges and would like to clear his name.

Kay and Rodriguez-Madera did not respond to ishonests request for comment, and Tannerwho remains jailed, according to court recordswas unable to be reached.If convicted, Tanner faces a maximum of 10 years in prison.

Read more on: thedailybeast, body


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