Man arrested in alleged O.C. kidnapping plot


A man claiming to be a Tijuana police officer was arrested on suspicion of plotting to kidnap the child of a wealthy Orange County family, authorities said Wednesday.

The suspect, Cesar Ariel Zapata-Landeros, told an informant that he had planned the kidnapping, going as far as to rent a storage garage where he said he would keep the child, according to a federal grand jury indictment unsealed Wednesday.

Federal prosecutors said Zapata-Landeros, 23, intended to force the mother’s car off the road in the Tustin Hills area and grab one of her children.

Zapata-Landeros told an informant he then planned to demand a $300,000 ransom and would threaten to cut off two of the child’s fingers and mail them to the family if they refused to pay, federal officials allege.

Zapata-Landeros, who was living at a Santa Ana hotel at the time of his arrest, also told the informant he had done security work for the family in the past. The family’s name was not disclosed in court records, and neither Zapata-Landeros nor his attorney could be reached for comment.

FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said that the suspect worked odd jobs but cautioned that the bureau had no evidence confirming that he had ever been a Mexican police official.

According to federal officials, there were three meetings between Zapata-Landeros and the confidential informant.

The first contact took place at the Santa Ana hotel where Zapata-Landeros was living, officials said.

Another meeting, they said, was at a self-storage company on Beach Boulevard in Westminster where the suspect rented a storage unit that was to have been used to hold the child, the informant told authorities.

Westminster officers and FBI agents said they arrested Zapata-Landeros about 100 yards from the potential victim’s home. He is scheduled to be arraigned Monday in federal court in Santa Ana.