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"Femme Fatale" convicted of luring kidnap victims for cartel gang

July 19, 2012 |  5:38 pm

MendozamorenoA San Diego jury convicted a young woman on kidnapping charges Thursday for her femme fatale role in a Mexican gang that targeted wealthy businessmen for large ransoms.

Nancy Mendoza Moreno, an attractive 24-year-old aspiring flight attendant, was found guilty of luring two men to a gang of kidnappers who terrorized San Diego suburbs from 2004 to 2007. She was acquitted of a third alleged kidnapping and faces a potential life prison term at her sentencing hearing in August.

Portrayed as a party girl with a taste for pricey liquor and gangster boyfriends, Mendoza was found guilty of enticing one man, Eduardo Gonzalez Tostado, 37, to a sexual rendezvous at a house in Chula Vista where masked gunmen immediately pounced and held him captive for eight days. Another man, Jorge Garcia Vasquez, 58, the brother-in-law of a top drug cartel figure in Tijuana, was traveling with Mendoza on an errand when he was snatched from his vehicle. He was released 22 days later after his family paid about a $500,000 to the kidnappers.

The gang, called Los Palillos, or toothpicks, had split from the Tijuana-based Arellano Felix drug cartel and moved across the border, where they began targeting anyone they believed was linked to the cartel.

Mendoza’s legal team raised a mistaken identity defense, but Gonzalez and Garcia both testified at the trial, along with a former member of the gang who fingered Mendoza as part of the crew.

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-- Richard Marosi, in San Diego

Photo: Nancy Mendoza Moreno, 24, during her trial on charges of luring three men to Mexican kidnappers who extracted large ransoms. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

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