By Neal Putnam
A 22-year-old North Park man has been indicted by a federal grand jury for allegedly kidnapping a 16-year-old girl from Oklahoma after meeting her online.
Ramsey Manuel Cervantes pleaded not guilty July 21 to the lone federal charge against him in U.S. District Court when he appeared before Magistrate Judge Allison Goddard.
The girl was reported missing June 15 by her father. Court records say Cervantes abducted her at knife point and kept her intoxicated with vodka during the drive to California.
She found herself alone in his apartment on June 22 and discovered a cellphone, which she used to call her father and police, according to court records. Police responded to his apartment and he was arrested.
“We are grateful that this case had a positive ending with the young victim back with her loved ones,” said San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit.
“This is a sad reminder to all of us to be careful who you trust online,” added Nisleit.
On June 30, Judge Karen Crawford ordered Cervantes detained in prison without bail because he represents a danger to the community. He faces a 20 year to life sentence if he’s convicted and the possibility of facing additional charges, according to her order.
The jurisdiction is federal because interstate commerce was used to cross state lines for kidnapping.
Cervantes met the victim some months earlier online and she believed he was 17 years old. They used social media applications to exchange messages.
“Not everyone is who they claim to be in cyberspace,” said U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman. “It is important that all of us remain vigilant regarding online activity.”
“The allegations against this defendant highlight the digital and physical vulnerability of our nation’s children,” said Grossman. “We will do everything we can to prevent children from becoming victims and to seek justice if they do.”
The victim told authorities Cervantes forced her to watch videos of people skinning dogs and threatened to do that to her. She said she was sexually assaulted.
“The defendant is faced with allegations that he committed heinous crimes stemming from an online encounter,” said FBI special agent in charge Stacey Moy.
“There is no higher priority than protecting children in both physical and virtual worlds,” said Moy.
A preliminary hearing was canceled after the grand jury issued the indictment on July 20. Cervantes will next return to court on Aug. 22 to set a trial date.
Cervantes remains in the Metropolitan Correctional Center without bail.