A Mexican businessman said that his Mexican captors were unafraid to kidnap people in the United States.
Eduardo Gonzalez Tostado, 32, recounted his captors' threats and demands for money after a woman lured him to a home the night of June 8 with the promise of sex. He was jumped, beaten and shot with a stun gun by at least four men who blindfolded and bound him.
The leader of the group, a Mexican man, said they would free him for $2 million (1.5 million EUR) and warned him to take the demand seriously.
"He said it's not the first time, he did it before, he has the balls to do it over here in the U.S., not in Mexico, the kidnapping," Gonzalez said.
Six men pleaded not guilty to charges of kidnap for ransom after Gonzalez was rescued in a federal raid June 16 from a home in Chula Vista, a suburb just north of the U.S.-Mexico border.
The defendants - four Mexican citizens, one Cuban and one U.S. citizen - could face life in prison without the possibility parole.
The men are believed to be members of a kidnapping and murder organization called Los Palillos - The Toothpicks - that is suspected of involvement in several unsolved murders in San Diego County over the past several years. Prosecutors say the group may have targeted members of the Tijuana-based Arellano Felix drug cartel.
Tijuana, across the border from San Diego, has seen numerous kidnappings in recent years, often linked to drug violence.
Gonzalez told the court that he has no links to the drug cartel. Prosecutors said they did not know why Gonzalez was targeted, other than his wealth and prominence as a champion off-road racer and owner of a seafood restaurant in Tijuana.
Gonzalez said the day after his abduction, he called home and told his pregnant wife to sell their house and raise money from friends. At the time, his wife refused to believe he was being held hostage and hung up the phone after accusing him of partying all night.
Later, his wife and cousin gave the abductors $193,900 (141,905 EUR) using a briefcase with an FBI homing device hidden inside, according to investigators. An FBI airplane tracked the car back to the house where Gonzalez was being held.