Los Angeles, California - Four Philippine nationals were indicted Thursday on conspiracy, hostage-taking, and weapons charges stemming from the kidnapping in the Philippines of a mother and her then 14-year-old son in July of 2011. The indictment alleges that the group held the mother for approximately 82 days and the son for approximately 151 days, and forced the family to pay ransom for their return. The victims, both U.S. nationals, were in the Philippines on a family trip.
The indictment, returned by a grand jury in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, was announced by John P. Carlin, Assistant Attorney General for National Security; Ronald C. Machen Jr., U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia; Stephanie Yonekura, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California, and Bill L. Lewis, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office.
The four men are identified as John Does, but are also known as Furuji Indama, Radzmil Jannatul, Muadz, and Abu Basim. Each is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit hostage-taking, two counts of hostage-taking, one count of conspiracy to use, carry, brandish and discharge a firearm during a crime of violence and one count of using, carrying, brandishing and discharging a firearm during a crime of violence and aiding and abetting and causing an act to be done. None of the defendants is in custody.
If extradited to the United States and convicted of these charges, each defendant would face a maximum term of life in prison.
“The four men indicted are alleged to have been involved in the hostage-taking of two U.S. citizens vacationing in the Philippines more than three years ago,” said Assistant Attorney General Carlin. “Hostage-takers who target our citizens with captivity and violence anywhere in the world should know that we will pursue them and seek to bring them to justice, however long it takes.”
“While on a family vacation overseas, a Virginia mother and her teenage son were captured, forced into boats at gunpoint, and taken to an island where they were held hostage for ransom,” said U.S. Attorney Machen. “This indictment charges four Philippine men for their alleged roles in taking these Americans hostage and holding them captive for months in terrifying conditions. We remain focused on apprehending and extraditing these men so that they can face these charges in a courtroom in our nation’s capital.”
“The victim family in this case experienced great suffering when a mother and son were violently kidnapped and held by the defendants overseas, while family members in the United States endured for months without knowing the fate of their loved ones,” said Assistant Director Lewis, of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office. “It should be noted that, following the mother’s release, her son was held for months before valiantly escaping his captors. The charges in this case are the result of a joint investigation by the FBI and law enforcement partners in the Philippines, one of many countries with whom we work to identify those responsible for victimizing American citizens abroad and build cases for potential prosecution.”
According to the indictment, the defendants and co-conspirators kidnapped the two United States nationals on or about July 12, 2011. The woman, then age 43, and her then 14-year-old son were taken hostage from a beach cottage on Tictabon Island, several miles from the mainland of Zamboanga City in the southern Philippines.
Both hostages were forced into boats at gunpoint, brought to another island, Basilan Island, and forced to march to a camp where they were held until September 2011. The two were then forced to march to another camp, also on Basilan Island.
The indictment alleges that the defendants and their co-conspirators threatened to kill the hostages, and that they used firearms, including handguns, semiautomatic assault weapons, and destructive devices to keep and detain them. The indictment also alleges that the group demanded ransom from a family member of the hostages and did, in fact, cause a family member to make bank transfers as ransom payments.
The group released the mother on or about Oct. 2, 2011, but retained her teenage son as a hostage, and demanded that she pay a large ransom for his release. The son eventually escaped from his captivity on or about Dec. 9, 2011.
An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed a violation of criminal laws. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless found guilty.
The charges were the result of an investigation led by the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Courtney Spivey Urschel and Thomas A. Gillice of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Grigg of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California, and Trial Attorney T. J. Reardon III of the Counterterrorism Section of the National Security Division of the Department of Justice. Former Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony Asuncion and Assistant U.S. Attorney George P. Varghese, now with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts, investigated the case prior to indictment.