Three Men Convicted on Federal Charges Relating to a Kidnapping Resulting in Death

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LEXINGTON, KY- Rosario Diaz Barraza, 32, of Phoenix, Ariz., and Ramon Camacho Zepeda, 54, of Lexington, were convicted by a federal court jury on Wednesday, April 27, 2022 of conspiracy to commit kidnapping and interstate transportation of stolen automobiles, following a 7-day trial.  A third defendant, John Carlos Betancourt, 27, of Penuelas, Puerto Rico, was convicted of the interstate transportation of stolen vehicles.

According to evidence presented at trial, the charges stemmed from the kidnapping of two individuals, identified in court records as J.O. and M.A.T.O.  Both victims were killed during the commission of the kidnapping.  Their bodies were discovered in the trunk of a Volkswagen Jetta, on September 11, 2017, at 430 Blue Sky Parkway in Lexington.  The location was an automotive repair business owned by J.O.  Two vehicles belonging to J.O. were stolen during the offenses and transported to Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.  Evidence presented at trial included that Camacho Zepeda and Diaz Barraza were distributing kilogram quantities of cocaine and heroin in Lexington, and that J.O. had allegedly incurred a debt to them based on his involvement in the drug trafficking.  Testimony by a pathologist from the Kentucky Medical Examiner’s Office showed that J.O.’s cause of death was attributed to “chop wounds” to the head and asphyxiation.  The second victim, M.A.T.O., died from asphyxiation.

Two other defendants, Jose Felix Tlatenchi, 39, also of Wilkes-Barre, and Jean Michael Serrano-Jimenez, 31, of Hanover Township, Penn., previously entered guilty pleas relating to their involvement.  Serrano-Jimenez pled guilty as charged to conspiracy to commit kidnapping, while Tlatenchi pled guilty as an accessory after the fact to the kidnappings.

Carlton S. Shier, IV, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky; J. Todd Scott, DEA, Louisville Field Office; Colonel Phillip Burnett, Commissioner, Kentucky State Police; and Chief Lawrence Weathers, Lexington Police Department, jointly announced the verdict.

The lengthy investigation was conducted primarily by the Lexington Police Department, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Kentucky State Police.  Multiple additional law enforcement agencies also provided valuable assistance, including the Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania Police Department, the Reading, Pennsylvania Police Department, the Pennsylvania State Police, the New York City Police Department, the Harlingen, Texas Police Department and Homeland Security Investigations.  The United States was represented in the case by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Todd Bradbury and Francisco Villalobos.

Serrano-Jimenez is scheduled for sentencing on May 12, 2022.  Tlatenchi is scheduled for sentencing on July 7, 2022.  Diaz Barraza, Camacho Zepeda and Betancourt are all scheduled for sentencing on July 25, 2022.  Diaz Barraza, Camacho Zepeda, and Serrano-Jimenez face a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.  Tlatenchi faces up to 15 years and Betancourt up to 10 years.  However, the Court must consider the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the applicable federal sentencing statutes before imposing its sentence.

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