A Honduran national who crossed the border into the U.S. told police that her baby was stolen and held for ransom after an El Paso, Texas, woman offered her a ride this year, according to a federal criminal complaint.
The suspect, Jenna Leigh Roark, was arrested last month on charges of hostage taking and aiding and abetting. Court documents did not list attorney information for Roark.
The FBI was alerted to the case on Sept. 26, when the St. Petersburg Police Department in Florida contacted it about a woman who said she had been separated from her infant son since May and was being extorted for money. When she made the complaint, she was living in Florida.
The woman, who is not named in the documents, told police that she crossed the border from Mexico and approached a man and a woman in an El Paso apartment complex looking for directions to the bus station, the complaint states.
The woman said that Roark said her name was "Jane" and that the pair offered her a ride to the station. During the drive, Roark told the woman that she would keep the woman's son, and the two women exchanged phone numbers, it says.
It was not clear Tuesday what was said during the alleged exchange or why the woman agreed to leave her child with Roark. The complaint offers no other details about the alleged encounter, and the Justice Department could not immediately be reached for comment.
"Jane would periodically send victim pictures and videos of son and victim and son would speak on the phone two to three times a week," the complaint states.
But soon after, Roark told the woman that she had to pay $8,000 to get her son back, says the complaint, which alleges that Roark later dropped the price to $5,800.
Roark was arrested Sept. 16 by the Texas Public Safety Department in connection with an unrelated incident. Shortly before she was taken into custody, she had stopped at a motel and picked up three undocumented people, according to the complaint.
When Roark was arrested, one of her daughters was in the front seat of the vehicle holding an infant boy, the FBI wrote in the complaint. At the time, law enforcement did not know the boy was alleged to have been stolen.
The complaint says Roark told law enforcement officers that the boy was her other daughter's child. That daughter arrived shortly thereafter, according to the complaint, but said the child belonged to her fiancé. The daughter also gave law enforcement officers a birthdate for the boy that differed from what Roark said.
Due to the conflicting information, the boy was placed in the care of Child Protective Services as law enforcement officials investigated. It was more than a week later when authorities in Texas learned that the child belonged to the victim from Florida.
According to the complaint Roark said in an interview with investigators that she and her husband were in trouble with the Mafia and that the baby was given to them with the instructions that they would "care for the child until payment by Victim was made."
The U.S. attorney’s office in El Paso, which is prosecuting the case, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.