FOUNTAIN VALLEY : Van Driver Held in Alleged Kidnaping

A Mexican national was arrested early Thursday on suspicion of kidnaping and robbing three fellow Mexican nationals whom he allegedly had agreed to smuggle into the United States.

Rafael Llanos, 28, of Los Mochis, Mexico, was placed in Orange County Jail with bail set at $50,000 after a California Highway Patrol officer stopped Llanos' van and discovered three men trapped inside in a hidden compartment.

After stopping the van at 1:16 a.m. for speeding on the southbound San Diego Freeway at Magnolia Street, CHP Officer R. Gonzales heard screams from the back. Upon checking further, he found the three victims stuffed in a compartment beneath a plywood platform covered by boxes, Fountain Valley Police Sgt. Larry Griswold said.

In questioning the men, Griswold said, Gonzales found that they had agreed to pay $450 each for Llanos to smuggle them from Tijuana to Los Angeles last Sunday.

But when they arrived in Los Angeles only one of the three had enough money to pay Llanos, Griswold said. So all three were allegedly beaten and kept locked in a garage until Wednesday night, when Llanos loaded them in the van to drive them back to Mexico, Griswold said.

The victims, ranging in ages from 21 to 27, were detained by Fountain Valley police until later Thursday morning when they were bound over to the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service for immigration proceedings.

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