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Man who kidnapped U.S. Army soldiers from Colombia bar gets 48-year sentence

Two U.S. soldiers were partying in Bogota when a Colombian man and two accomplices spiked their drinks and kidnapped them when they became incapacitated.
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Two U.S soldiers partying in Bogota, Colombia were drugged, kidnapped and robbed by a woman and two men in 2020. One of the men will was sentenced to 48 years in prison for the 2020 abduction. Photo by Dustin Perry.

A Colombian man who helped drug, kidnap and rob two U.S. Army soldiers after a night of partying will spend nearly 50 years in a U.S. prison. Jeffersson Arango Castellanos, 36, was sentenced to 48 years by a federal judge for the 2020 attack on the U.S. soldiers in Bogota in 2020 which left both incapacitated and missing for most of a day.

Castellanos was brought to the U.S. in May 2023 and pleaded guilty to charges in January of kidnapping, conspiracy to kidnap and assault against an internationally protected person. Another man, Pedro Jose Silva Ochoa, also known as “Tata,” was extradited to Miami in April from Chile on similar charges.

The two men worked with a woman to ply the soldiers with drinks at a Bogota bar, then drugged the two and coaxed them into a car late in the night when the soldiers were nearly incapacitated.

Federal court documents of the two men’s cases do not provide any identifying details on the soldiers except that they were active duty in the Army and in Colombia on a temporary assignment. Both soldiers recovered but, were missing for most of a day and were robbed.

One soldier told investigators that his last memory was taking a “selfie” with a woman in the bar. Both men left their drinks on a table for the photo neither soldier, the indictment says, remembered anything beyond that encounter.

When Colombian police reviewed surveillance video, they saw that the two soldiers, Ochoa and a woman, Kenny Julieth Uribe Chiran, left the bar after 2 a.m., with both soldiers stumbling and unable to stand on their own. The two Colombians led the Americans to a waiting car, driven by Arango. The Colombians drove the Americans to a hotel, where they robbed them.

Both soldiers turned up the next day with bruises and marks on their faces, though it was unclear if they were assaulted or suffered the marks by falling, which both appear to do in the surveillance tapes.

Both soldiers failed to report for work the next morning at 6 a.m., launching a manhunt by both U.S. and Colombian officials. Both men were eventually found at their apartments, one arriving from a medical clinic after having been found wandering the streets, still obviously intoxicated, by Bogata police that morning. The second soldier told investigators he did not know how he had returned to the apartment.

The scam took four cell phones, both of the men’s wallets, jackets and jewelry. Both men found that their credit cards had been used for purchases and their debit cards drained.

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