2016-11-02 / Front Page

25 To Life For Kidnap Mastermind

By Liz Goff

A 42-year-old New Jersey man was sentenced last week to 25 years to life in prison for abducting, torturing and holding a Woodside man for ransom in April 2013, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said.
A Queens jury found Eduardo Moncayo guilty earlier this month of first degree kidnapping in the shocking abduction, Brown said. Moncayo’s accomplices, Dennis Alves, 35, and Christian Acuna, 38, are awaiting trial on a slew of similar charges.
Police at the NYPD Major Case Squad rescued Pedro Portugal, 52, from the three captors who held him in a Sunnyside warehouse for more than a month while demanding $3 million ransom from his relatives in Ecuador.
Prosecutors said Portugal was walking to his car near 88th Street and Roosevelt Avenue at about 7:30 pm on April 18, when Moncayo called out his name and displayed what appeared to be an NYPD badge.
Moncayo and one of his accomplices grabbed Portugal by his shoulders and forced him into a sports utility vehicle waiting nearby, prosecutors said. Once inside the vehicle, Moncavo punched Portugal in the face and body and pulled a mask over his face to obstruct his vision. Portugal told police a second man waiting in the van then lifted his shirt, held a knife to his stomach and threatened to stab him if he moved or made any noise as the vehicle drove off – with the rear door open and one of Portugal’s legs dangling outside the vehicle. The vehicle sped off to a warehouse at 38-09 43rd Ave., where the three captors escorted Portugal to a small room on the third floor of the building, forced him into a chair and bound his legs and arms, prosecutors said.
Portugal told police that a group of unknown men then repeatedly punched and kicked him and said they knew he had property in the United States, and they wanted money from him. One of the men then ordered Portugal to call his mother in Ecuador to ask her for $3 million in ransom to be delivered to a person named “Tito,” prosecutors said.
After they received the ransom demand, Portugal’s family notified the NYPD. Police officials sent five NYPD officers to Ecuador, who worked closely with the Ecuadorian police, the US Department of State, and NYPD Dep. Inspector Gregory Antonsen of the Major Case Squad.
The NYPD officers tracked calls demanding the ransom and had family members insist that Portugal be allowed to call them directly, as “proof of life,” prosecutors said. The kidnappers granted the request. In a brief conversation Portugal told family members, “They’re going to hurt me, to cut off my fingers,” police sources said.
According to criminal complaint files in the case, Portugal was constantly abused during his 32-day ordeal – punched and kicked in the face and body. A hood covered his head throughout the ordeal, his hand was burned with acid, several of his teeth were shattered during the beatings, and his captors repeatedly threatened to slice off his fingers and kill him unless his family came up with the cash, according to the complaints.
Police at the NYPD Major Case Squad continued their search for Portugal, tracking individuals with criminal records who had traveled to and from Ecuador near the time of his kidnapping. Working with Portugal’s relatives in Ecuador, the cops were also able to trace phone calls from the kidnappers to the Sunnyside/Long Island City area, so they set their sights on a group of men who had recently rented space at the warehouse and set up surveillance nearby. A series of regular food deliveries and a light on at night in a third-floor section of the warehouse led cops to believe Portugal was being held there.
At 4 pm on May 20, 2013, six police officers disguised as building inspectors knocked on a door on the third floor of the warehouse and heard someone running inside. The cops entered the room and spotted Portugal, his hands bound with cloth and duct tape, exiting a bathroom inside the makeshift apartment, court papers said. At the same time, the cops saw a man who was guarding Portugal jump out a back window and down to the roof of an adjacent building. The cops arrested Acuna, of Corona, moments later at the corner of Skillman Avenue and 39th Street.
Police sources said Portugal “stumbled into the arms of the cops that came to his rescue saying the kidnappers “got nothing.”
Acuna, Moncayo of Lyndenhurst, NJ, and Alves, of East Elmhurst, were arrested on indictments charging them with first- and second-degree kidnapping, first-degree unlawful imprisonment, assault and other counts.
According to a criminal complaint, Acuna told police that Alves introduced him to another man, Claudio Ordonex, who hired him to watch Portugal inside the warehouse for $800 per week. Acuna and Alves allegedly watched Portugal during the day and Moncayo watched him during the night.
Alves told police he was later introduced to a man named Claudio, aka “Doctor,” who agreed to help kidnap Portugal, bring him to the warehouse and keep him there until they received ransom money. Alves said Claudio said he would pay him $5,000 to watch over Portugal in the warehouse.
Alves told police he met Moncayo at the intersection of 88th Street and Roosevelt Avenue on the day of the kidnapping and that Moncayo and Acuna jumped out of the SUV, grabbed Portugal and shoved him into the vehicle.
It was not immediately clear why Portugal, a married father of six was the target of the kidnappers. Police sources said Portugal owned an accounting business on Roosevelt Avenue, and his family in Ecuador owned property and several businesses at the time of the abduction, but they were not extremely wealthy.
“This was a terrifying ordeal for the victim,” Brown said. “This businessman was forcibly abducted from the streets of Queens County and held against his will in a vacant warehouse for 32 days. The victim’s fingers were burned with acid, he was struck so hard in the mouth that several teeth were knocked out – and even after being rescued he deeply traumatized,” Brown said. “The sentence imposed was more than warranted.”

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