CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Investigators said a car theft ring has been broken up, as the group was allegedly ransoming the vehicles until the owners deposited thousands of dollars into a Cash App account.
Tense confrontations took place in the parking lot of the Calallen Walmart Wednesday afternoon.
Investigators said Juan Coronado used a baby as a human shield, but eventually surrendered. He is believed to have been the person towing disabled cars that had been left along Highway 77, or were parked at a shopping center.
"The victims will be extorted to get their vehicle back. I had never seen anything like this," said Mike Tamez with the Nueces County Criminal Interdiction Unit.
Tamez also believes that Priscilla Alaniz, the woman who was also arrested, was the mastermind behind extorting drivers. She supposedly said they could get their car back if they deposited several thousand dollars into a Cash App account.
His group was able to conduct a sting operation to catch them in the act and arrest them.
"They agreed to meet and we were there waiting and arrested them once we found the vehicles at Walmart. And that just quickly snowballed into getting the additional vehicles that were also reportedly stolen," he said.
Some six vehicles are believed to have been recovered in the hours following this investigation. Nueces County Precinct 3 Constable Jimmy Rivera believes that the investigation is far from over.
"This is going to transpire into probably more arrests and more stolen vehicles. So we're gonna be working very closely with those agencies and share this information," he said.
Alaniz and Coronado remain in the Nueces County jail. Currently, Coronado has eight charges that have been filed against him, which include endangerment of a child and violating immigration laws. Alaniz is being held without bond on fraud and drug charges.
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