A Honduran national who crossed the border into the U.S. told police that her baby was stolen and held for ransom after an El Paso, Texas, woman offered her a ride earlier this year, according to a federal criminal complaint.
The suspect, Jenna Leigh Roark, was arrested last month on charges of hostage taking and aiding and abetting. Attorney information was not listed for Roark in the court documents.
The FBI was alerted to the case on Sept. 26 when the St. Petersburg Police Department in Florida contacted them about a woman who said she had been separated from her infant son since May and was being extorted for money. At the time the woman made the complaint, she was living in Florida.
The woman, who is not named, told police that she crossed the border from Mexico and approached a man and woman in an El Paso apartment complex looking for directions to the bus station, the complaint states.
The woman said that Roark said her name was “Jane” and the pair offered her a ride to the station. During the drive, Roark told the woman that she would keep the woman’s son and the two women exchanged phone numbers, it says.
It was not clear Tuesday what was said during the alleged exchange or why the woman agreed to leave her child with Roark. The complaint does not offer any other details on the alleged encounter and the Department of Justice could not be reached for comment.
“Jane would periodically send victim pictures and videos of son and victim and son would speak on the phone two to three times a week,” the complaint states.
But soon after, Roark allegedly told the woman that she had to pay $8,000 to get her son back. The complaint alleges that Roark later dropped the price to $5,800.
Roark was arrested on Sept. 16 by the Texas Department of Public Safety in connection with an unrelated incident. Shortly before she was taken into custody, she had stopped at a motel and picked up three undocumented people, according to the complaint.
When Roark was arrested, one of her daughters was in the front seat of the vehicle holding an infant son, the FBI wrote in the complaint. At the time, law enforcement did not know the son had been allegedly stolen.
The complaint says that Roark told law enforcement that the boy was her other daughter’s child. That daughter arrived shortly thereafter, according to the complaint, but said that the child belonged to her fiancé. The daughter also gave law enforcement a birthday for the boy which differed from what Roark said.
Due to the conflicting information, the boy was placed in the care of Child Protective Services as law enforcement investigated. It was more than a week later when authorities in Texas learned that the child belonged to the victim out of Florida.
During an interview with investigators, Roark allegedly said that she and her husband were in trouble with the mafia and that the baby was given to them under the instructions that they would “care for the child until payment by Victim was made,” according to the complaint.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in El Paso, which is prosecuting the case, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.