The FBI says he was kidnapped in Fort Lauderdale and waterboarded. Then came the bomb threat
Two brothers and a third accomplice kidnapped a man in Fort Lauderdale before realizing they had the wrong person, the FBI said. Instead of releasing him, agents say they threatened to harm him with a power drill, pointed firearms at his head and waterboarded him in an AirBnB.
Then the unthinkable happened. The trio attempted to kidnap their intended target — the victim’s co-worker — but it didn’t go as planned when the kidnapped man called in a bomb threat to prompt police to rush to his aid, according to investigators.
Jeffrey Arista, 32, and his brother Jonathan Arista, 29, made their first appearance in federal court on Monday. The third man, Raymond Gomez, has not yet appeared in court. A criminal complaint accuses the three of kidnapping and conspiracy to kidnap. If convicted, each faces a maximum sentence of life in prison, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida said Tuesday in a news release.
According to their criminal complaint, either Jonathan Arista or Gomez, while wearing what appeared to be a ballistic vest, a gold badge and a full-face mask, kidnapped the victim around 7:30 a.m. Friday as he was about to get into his car. Parked in the garage outside his home in Fort Lauderdale.
With the help of a gun, one of the men forced the victim into a Dodge Charger, with tinted windows and “police” lights, before placing a black hood over his head to obstruct his vision.
FBI agents say they took the victim to an AirBnB residential garage, which Jonathan Arista had gained access to the day before the kidnapping. There Jeffrey Arista made him reveal his identity. After verifying his identity, the trio knew they had made a mistake. The man they kidnapped was a co-worker of the intended target, a man they said owed them money.
“The kidnappers threatened the victim by holding an electric drill to his skin and pointing firearms at his head,” an FBI agent wrote in their criminal complaint. “At some point, the kidnappers forced the victim into the bathroom inside the residence where they covered his face with four or five black sand masks and poured buckets of water on him, effectively waterboarding him.”
“During this time, the victim thought he was going to drown.”
Agents say the trio brainstormed how to lure the intended target and get the victim to contact his handler. Sometime after 7:30 p.m., about 12 hours after the initial kidnapping, Gomez drove Jeffrey Arista and the victim in a black Porsche to his home. When the victim received a text message from a co-worker saying he was at their workplace in Pompano Beach, agents say the kidnappers took him there and discussed placing a “tracking device” on the co-worker’s car.
According to the FBI, the kidnappers put their alternative plan into action, which was to allow the victim to enter his workplace to find his co-worker. Once inside, the victim told his colleague what was happening, called 911 and threatened a bomb “to get a quick police response.”
Jeffrey Arista was taken into custody outside the building. Law enforcement then watched the Porsche drive away from the area before crashing nearby, where Jonathan Arista was handcuffed after he was seen driving away from the crash site.
The next day, law enforcement arrested Gomez after he and another man were seen wiping parts out of a Honda Civic parked outside an AirBnB and placing bags in the car.