Phoenix, Arizona Man Sentenced to Federal Prison for Role in Deadly Kidnappings, the Victim's Bodies were Discovered in Lexington, Kentucky

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LEXINGTON, KY — The U.S. Attorney’s Office Eastern District of Kentucky is reporting that a Phoenix man, Rosario Diaz Barraza, 32, was sentenced to 35 years in federal prison, on Tuesday, by U.S. District Court Judge Karen Caldwell, after previously being convicted of conspiracy to commit kidnapping and interstate transportation of stolen automobiles.

According to evidence presented at trial, the charges stemmed from the kidnappings of two individuals, identified in court records as J.O. and M.A.T.O.  Both victims were killed during the commission of the kidnappings.  Their bodies were discovered in the trunk of a Volkswagen Jetta, on September 11, 2017, at 430 Blue Sky Parkway, in Lexington. 

That 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 revealed that Camacho Zepeda and Diaz Barraza were distributing kilogram quantities of cocaine and heroin in Lexington, and that J.O. had incurred a debt to them, based on his involvement in the drug trafficking. 

Testimony by a pathologist from the Kentucky Medical Examiner’s Office established 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.

Diaz Barraza was convicted at trial, in April 2022.  Two additional defendants, Ramon Camacho Zepeda, 54, of Lexington, and John Carlos Betancourt, 27, of Penuelas, Puerto Rico, were also convicted for their roles in the kidnappings, in April 2022, and are awaiting sentencing.

Two other defendants, Jose Felix Tlatenchi, 39, 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.  Both are also currently awaiting sentencing.

Under federal law, Diaz Barraza must serve 85 percent of his prison sentence.  Upon his release from prison, he will be under the supervision of the U.S. Probation Office for five years.

“This was a brutal crime, and yet another example of the disturbing impact that illegal drug trafficking can have on communities,” said Carlton S. Shier, IV, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky.  “Bringing those responsible for this awful crime to justice involved tireless, dedicated, and remarkable work, by both our trial team and our law enforcement partners, across several states.  The conduct in this case more than warrants the sentence imposed and should serve as a warning to those who continue to engage in this dangerous trade.  We will continue to use all the resources available to us to combat it.”

“This case further illustrates how violence and drug trafficking go hand-in-hand,” said Special Agent in Charge Todd Scott, head of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Louisville Division.  “The heinous and brutal nature of the killings in this particular instance are reflected in the lengthy prison sentence.”

United States Attorney Shier; DEA Special Agent Scott; Colonel Phillip Burnett, Commissioner, Kentucky State Police; and Chief Lawrence Weathers, Lexington Police Department, jointly announced the sentencing.

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.

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PREVIOUS RELATED ARTICLE: Three Men Convicted on Federal Charges Relating to a Kidnapping Resulting in Death

 

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