The FBI is offering a $20,000 reward in the kidnapping of a U.S. woman who was living in Mexico and has been missing for more than a month.
Maria del Carmen Lopez, 63, was kidnapped Feb. 9 from her home in Pueblo Nuevo, Colima, Mexico, the FBI said in a statement last week. Lopez, a U.S. citizen, split time between Southern California and Mexico.
Her family says they were asked to pay a large ransom by her kidnappers, who they believe abducted her from her home while armed and masked.
“We were able to hear what sound to us like a recording of her pleading for us to please help her,” Lopez’s daughter, Zonia, told “NBC Nightly News” on Friday.
The prosecutor’s office in Colima said the case was initially kept out of the public spotlight to keep Lopez safe. The Colima authorities, who are working with the FBI, said the case has now been taken over by the specialized prosecutor for organized crime.
A spokeswoman told “NBC Nightly News” the FBI believes Lopez’s abduction was a targeted kidnapping. The Los Angeles field office is offering $20,000 for information leading to her location.
There has been heightened interest in missing persons cases in Mexico after four Americans were kidnapped this month crossing the border to Matamoros, Mexico, for a medical procedure. Two of them were killed, and the two others were returned safely to U.S. soil.
Gulf Cartel Grupo Escorpiones issued an apology over the kidnappings, which a senior law enforcement official said authorities believe to be legitimate.
Three women have also been missing for nearly a month after they crossed the border from Mexico to sell clothes at a flea market in Montemorelos, in Nuevo León state. The women, two sisters and a friend, have been missing since Feb. 24.
Authorities have released few details about their case.