The term coyote is slang for “a person who smuggles immigrants, especially Latin Americans, into the U.S. for a fee.” A coyote kidnapping for ransom (KFR) occurs when a coyote and/or others in the smuggling process kidnap the immigrant and charge the family an additional fee for the individual’s release after already receiving the full or partial agreed-upon amount for the service. In some cases, it may be difficult for law enforcement to determine if the incident was a dispute over the smuggling fee or an actual kidnapping.
The FBI analyzed 53 of its coyote KFR cases from 2020 to 2021, uncovering notable trends about the locations, perpetrators, ransom amounts, and resolutions.
All the kidnappings occurred in Mexico; specifically, in Baja California, Chiapas, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Jalisco, Nuevo León, Oaxaca, Tamaulipas, Veracruz, Yucatán, and Zacatecas. Most took place along the California and Texas borders in Baja California and Tamaulipas.
Victims kidnapped in Baja California were all Mexican citizens, while most abducted along the Texas border were from another Latin American country, such as El Salvador, Honduras, or Guatemala.