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Man pleads guilty in scheme to kidnap child of wealthy Orange County family

July 14, 2010 |  5:30 pm

A Santa Ana man pleaded guilty Wednesday to federal kidnapping charges in connection with the plot to kidnap the child of a wealthy Orange County family, authorities said.

ZapatacolorAs part of the plea deal, Cesar Ariel Zapata-Landeros faces 20 years in federal prison when he is sentenced Sept. 27 in U.S. District Court in Santa Ana.

Zapata-Landeros was indicted March 31 after an investigation by the FBI and Westminster police.

Authorities said Zapata-Landeros, who claimed he was a Tijuana police officer, told an informant that he planned to kidnap a child of a wealthy Orange County family, hide the child in a storage facility and then take the victim to Mexico. 

Federal prosecutors allege that Zapata-Landeros intended to run the mother's car off the road in the Tustin Hills area as she took her children to school. He told the informant he would then demand a $300,000 ransom, threatening to cut off two of the child's fingers and send them to the family if they refused to pay.

He also told the informant he had done security work for the family in the past. The name of the family was not provided in court records, and Zapata-Landeros could not be reached for comment.

The FBI conducted the investigation with the Westminster Police Department. Westminster officers and FBI agents arrested Zapata-Landeros on March 16 about 100 yards from the potential victim's home. The suspect was charged in federal court with solicitation to commit kidnapping for ransom.

-- Andrew Blankstein

Photo: Cesar Ariel Zapata-Landeros, 23, of Santa Ana pleaded guilty to kidnapping charges.