Five men allegedly hoping to recover a large quantity of cocaine, have been accused of kidnapping the grandparents of an associate and transporting them to Canada to hold hostage.
Five men from Quebec, George Distas, 79, Kosmas Dritsas, 49, Taylor Martin, 36, Franco D'Onofrio, 55, and Gary Arnold, 45, were arrested last Tuesday in connection with the kidnapping, alongside Graigory Brown, 50, from Plattsburgh, New York.
All of them are facing charges of kidnapping, forcible confinement and extortion for allegedly abducting James Helm Sr, 76, and his wife Sandra Helm, 70, from Moira, New York, and holding them hostage in Canada.
The couple were abducted from their home on Sunday 27 September and were then taken to Canada, where they were held for two days, according to US authorities.
The abduction was discovered on Monday 28 September, when Mr Helm did not turn up to work as the town’s highway superintendent, a job he has had for 12 years.
After one of the couple’s sons went to their house and found the door forcibly opened, he called the local police and they checked surveillance footage from a camera near the home.
The footage showed Mr Brown arriving at their house in a pickup truck late on Sunday.
A trace of Mr Helm’s mobile phone showed that the couple were then driven through the Akwesasne Mohawk reservation near the border with Canada, before they then eventually left the country.
On Monday, the couple’s son who first alerted the police, received a call from someone who called themselves, “Co-Conspirator A,” who said that he and his associates had kidnapped his parents.
They said that the suspects would exchange the couple for the 110lbs of cocaine that they believed “Individual-1” was in possession of, or for $3.5m (£2.7m).
Although the authorities did not specify who “Individual-1” is, the Mail reported that the couple’s grandson Macenzie Helm, 28, and his mother, Michelle Helm, were arrested in Vermont by the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) a week prior to the kidnapping.
They reported that the mother and son were arrested while transporting a duffel bag of cocaine for a large organisation, but because it was not publicly reported, the suspects did not know the cocaine had been seized by the DEA.
Both Macenzie and Michelle pleaded not guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute cocaine last week, and the mother has been released on bail, pending trial, according to NBC 5.
The kidnapped couple’s son continued to receive phone calls and texts from the suspects throughout Monday, and the authorities were able to trace their location through the mobile phones used in the communication.
On Tuesday, the Quebec provincial police then found the house the couple were being held hostage at, and officers arrested five men between the ages of 36 and 75.
The couple were found “safe and sound” in the house, town supervisor and family friend Justus Martin, told WWNY-TV.
He added: “My understanding from the family is that they’re shook up, but doing fine.”