Officials: Mexican drug cartel may be involved in Mebane kidnapping; 2 charged

GRAHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — Drug trafficking and Mexico’s Sinaloa drug cartel may be connected to a triple-kidnapping and armed robbery that occurred in Mebane on Tuesday night, the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office.

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RELATED: Authorities find man kidnapped at gunpoint in Mebane; 1 in custody

A man and woman have been arrested and charged in the gunpoint kidnapping and robbery of Alejandro “Alex” Gonzales, 20, a 27-year-old man and a 15-year-old boy. The incident took place around 10:15 p.m. in the driveway of a home located at 1322 Mebane Oaks Road, near a Walmart off Interstate 40, the sheriff’s office said.

The victims were taken from a 2004 Nissan Maxima at gunpoint. The Maxima was being driven by Gonzales.

According to authorities, the suspects removed all three from the vehicle at gunpoint. Gonzales was then placed into another vehicle while the other two victims were returned to the Maxima. One of the suspects then drove the two victims to a location in Mebane and released them, the sheriff’s office said.

Gonzales and his vehicle were reported missing after the incident Tuesday night.

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A Haw River Police Department officer found the Maxima around 5:45 a.m. Thursday parked on Holt Street in Haw River, authorities said. The car was unoccupied.

An investigation conducted by local, state and federal agencies led them to the Robeson County area. It was inside a mobile home located at 171 Pine Tree Road in Lumberton that Gonzales was rescued by authorities around 1:30 p.m. Thursday.

The sheriff’s office said that Gonzales had been held in the home against his will since he was kidnapped Tuesday. Gonzales was found bound and beaten all over his body. He had been knocked unconscious during the kidnapping after taking a severe blow to his head, the sheriff’s office said.

Alejandro Gonzales was reportedly kidnapped at gunpoint on July 25 (Alamance County Sheriff’s Office)

Authorities transported Gonzales to a hospital in Lumberton for treatment where he remains.

The sheriff’s office said that the two other kidnapping victims were also injured during the initial kidnapping.

The two charged in connection with the crime are Hector Manuel Lopez Jr., 23, of Burlington, and Briana Lizeth Cardenas, 19, of Mebane. Cardenas has the same address as where authorities say the kidnapping occurred.

RELATED: Authorities searching for 20-year-old man kidnapped at gunpoint in Mebane

Lopez is charged with four counts of kidnapping, three counts of robbery with firearms or other dangerous weapons, one count of motor vehicle theft, one count of trafficking in schedule II cocaine, and two counts of failure to appear in court. The sheriff’s office said that cocaine charges, one kidnapping charge, as well as the failure to appear charges, were from previous cases, some from other jurisdictions. Lopez had been a fugitive for approximately four years.

Lopez was placed in the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office Detention Center under a $1.352 million bond.

Cardenas, who authorities say is Lopez’s girlfriend, has been charged with three counts of accessory before the fact of a felony (kidnapping and robbery). Her bond was set at $250,000.

The investigation is ongoing and authorities believe there may be other arrests in the case and further charges against Lopez and Cardenas are possible.

So far, the investigation has indicated the involvement of drug trafficking, “possibly on a international scale,” involving the Sinaloa drug cartel, the sheriff’s office said.

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