Second Florida man receives 2 1/2 years in prison for kidnapping of man working in Abbotsford

MADISON – A Florida man who paid to smuggle a family member out of Mexico to Florida and then forcibly took him from his Abbotsford worksite so he could repay the smuggling debt, was sentenced Thursday in federal court to 2 1/2 years in prison.

Gerardo Hernandez-Anselmo, 34, of Kissimmee, Florida, previously pleaded guilty to conspiring with Felipe Engracia-Gonzalez, also of Florida, to unlawful transport of an illegal alien.

Engracia-Gonzalez received a “time served” sentence Sept. 7 equal to the 18 months he spent in detention while his case proceeded through court.

District Judge William Conley said Hernandez-Anselmo was the main actor in the conspiracy. Hernandez-Anselmo paid the $12,000 smuggling debt owed by the victim. Between June and December 2021, Hernandez-Anselmo made the victim work up to 10 hours a day in Florida to begin to pay his debt, according to court records.

When the victim’s family in the Wausau area heard about his mistreatment they brought him to Wisconsin in December 2021 where he worked for a meat products firm in Abbotsford.

Hernandez-Anselmo tracked the victim to Abbotsford in June 2022 and grabbed him after work aided by Engracia-Gonzalez.

The victim called 911 and said “emergency” in Spanish before his cellphone was thrown out of the window of Hernandez-Anselmo’s car. The phone was later located in a median on State 29, according to court records.

A handgun found in Hernandez-Anselmo’s car was probably involved in forcing the victim to return to Florida, Conley said.

Once in Florida, the victim was allowed one supervised phone call to his family in Wisconsin. They notified local authorities about his disappearance and the phone number he called from helped Florida police to locate Hernandez-Anselmo and Engracia-Gonzalez.

Hernandez-Anselmo and Engracia-Gonzalez were indicted in federal court in Madison in July 2022.

In court Thursday, Hernandez-Anselmo, through an interpreter, told Conley that he hasn’t forced anyone to do anything. He characterized his conduct as settling a “family dispute” over a debt owed.

“I know what I did, and I didn’t harm anyone,” he said through an interpreter.

Despite pleading guilty to the illegal alien transport charge, Conley said the differences between the defendant’s and the prosecution’s stories, “Make it seem like two difference crimes.”

Thirty-three years ago, Hernandez-Anselmo entered the U.S. illegally. He has worked ever since, learning the construction trade, has built 10 homes with his wife, with whom he has raised five children.

Hernandez-Anselmo has become a U.S. citizen and has no prior convictions, his attorney Peter Moyers said.

“He has done everything he can to remain in this country,” Moyers said

Asked by Conley why his client would do something “so horrific” after all this time, Moyers said that smuggling is an accepted part of life where his client came from.

Conley said he found it hard to believe Hernandez-Anselmo’s explanation of his conduct as the victim’s phone was thrown out of the car and it was likely a gun was pointed at his head while returning to Florida.

Hernandez-Anselmo was indicted on kidnapping charges and would have faced a stricter sentence, but the government agreed to let him plead guilty to the transport charge.

Facing a sentence of 30 to 37 months in prison under the advisory sentencing guidelines, Conley cited Hernandez-Anselmo’s lack of prior convictions, steady employment and family responsibilities in imposing a sentence from the lesser end of that range.

After prison, Hernandez-Gonzalez would be on three years of supervised release, unless he is deported, according to court documents.

The victim, 6who may also face deportation, requested an undisclosed amount of restitution. Conley gave the parties 90 days to reach an agreement on the request.

This article originally appeared on Stevens Point Journal: Second Florida man sentenced for kidnapping man working in Abbotsford

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