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California kidnapping suspects tried to take baby on 3 other occasions, prosecutors say

Jose Portillo allegedly posed as a CPS worker, but the family became suspicious and did not give up baby Brandon, prosecutors said.
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The two suspects charged with kidnapping a 3-month-old boy last month had tried multiple times to take the baby, including one posing as a worker with Child Protective Services, prosecutors said.

The baby, Brandon Cuellar, was found alive on April 26, a day after Yesenia Guadalupe Ramirez and Jose Roman Portillo allegedly kidnapped him from his family's apartment north of San Jose.

Police said Ramirez, a family friend, had taken the baby and the baby's grandmother shopping at Walmart and then brought them back home. The grandmother said she took the baby inside and then went back out to the car to unload groceries. Portillo, carrying a baby car seat, went inside the apartment and took Brandon while the grandmother was outside, authorities said.

The pair was arraigned last month on kidnapping and other related felonies, but the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office said Thursday that additional counts of kidnapping were added after an investigation found that Ramirez, 43, and Portillo, 28, tried to take the baby on three other occasions but were unsuccessful.

One alleged attempt happened about a month-and-a-half before the April 25 kidnapping. Prosecutors said Portillo showed up at the family's apartment and said he was a worker with Child Protective Services. The family thought the incident was odd and called CPS. They were told that a worker was not sent out to their home, the district attorney's office said in a news release.

Portillo "eventually left after the family did not give Brandon to them," prosecutors said. Ramirez was at the home during this incident.

Brandon Cuellar, 3 months old.
Brandon Cuellar, 3 months old.@SJPD_PIO via Twitter

In the second attempt, prosecutors said that Portillo and Ramirez tried to kidnap the baby at a Walmart on March 28 but "they were unable to switch shopping carts in an effort for Portillo to leave the store with Brandon."

The third attempt happened the morning of the kidnapping while Ramirez was at Walmart with the baby and the baby's grandmother. Prosecutors said that Ramirez and Portillo planned to take the baby but "they were unable to distract Brandon’s grandmother" while they were at the store.

District Attorney Jeff Rosen said the case and the details that have emerged were "troubling."

“There are few things more terrifying than someone stealing a child, as if they’re a car or a wallet,” Rosen said in a statement, adding that his office is determined "to prosecute those responsible to the fullest extent of the law.”

A statement of facts alleged that Ramirez and Portillo stocked up on diapers, baby clothing and formula. Prosecutors said neither have any infant children of their own or infant family members living with them.

Cody Salfen, an attorney for Ramirez, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday. Attorney information was not available for Portillo.