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      FBI working to keep the streets of the valley safe with the Safe Streets Taskforce

      Seven suspected kidnappers all with alleged ties to the Gulf cartel faced a San Juan judge Friday afternoon. All are accused of holding a pregnant woman and her boyfriend captive for three weeks. The seven were charged with aggravated kidnapping and given bonds of $500,000 each. Aurelio Leal, supervisory special agent with the FBI in McAllen, said these are cases his Safe Streets Taskforce helps to crack all the time. There was a Safe Streets Taskforce kidnapping cell that was operating here about three years ago, Leal said.With help from other agencies we were able to prosecute eight people for about eight different kidnappings that occurred here. Most of the kidnappings the taskforce handles are drug related. "90 percent or more of these cases are drug trafficking activities, Leal said. But there are some that involve human smuggling---which sometimes results in kidnappings.Some might be because of the alien smuggling where a group or criminal enterprise holds these undocumented aliens for ransom, Leal said.

      Extorting money from family members who might be residing in other areas of the United States.

      The seven in San Juan are accused of doing that very thing|.helping to smuggle in the expected mother and her boyfriend and then holding them captive for more money.

      Not all kidnappings are related to illegal activity.

      Leal said they have had cases in which innocent people have been the target of these groups.

      About two or three years ago we had the owner of Jesse TMs Muffler Shop kidnapped, Leal said.

      We are responsible for the prosecution of 8 or 10 people and his safe recovery.

      He was just an innocent businessman that was picked up by affiliates and members of the Tri City Bombers.

      Still, Leal said, there is no immediate cause for concern"that is"if you are not breaking law.