Mexican Soccer Star "El Gato" Arrested in Kidnapping Case

Former Mexican international soccer player Omar "El Gato" Ortiz has been arrested on suspicion of taking part in a major kidnapping ring, Mexican police announced Sunday.

Ortiz, whose nickname means “The Cat,” was accused of aiding a gang which is wanted for the abduction of at least 20 victims, including the husband of Mexican pop star Gloria Trevi, the security spokesman for Nuevo León state, Jorge Domene, told El Universal Saturday.

Ortiz, 35, has been under a two year suspension after testing positive for steroids in April 2010, when he was playing with the Rayados of Monterrey. After more than 250 appearances in the Mexican league, Ortiz's playing career ended in shame.

Domene said Ortiz's job was to select wealthy victims because he moved in the same social circles. Officials in the northeastern city of Monterrey said Ortiz had confessed to receiving payment for helping to select wealthy businessmen as targets in two of the kidnappings. He reportedly faces a sentence of up to 50 years if convicted.

The gang's victims allegedly included the husband of pop singer Trevi. Trevi has avoided commenting on the abduction, which reportedly occurred in October, but comments by Domene and state Attorney General Adrian de la Garza appeared to confirm that kidnapping. Her husband was apparently quickly freed.

The officials said Ortiz and three alleged accomplices were arrested earlier this week. They appeared to have no lawyer of record.

Ortiz is alleged to have become active in kidnappings that occurred in the second half of 2011. The gang allegedly demanded around 1 million pesos ($72,000) for the release of each victim.

The goalkeeper was presented to the national media Saturday night in handcuffs alongside three other men. The apparent leader of the gang, which is based in the state of Nuevo León, reportedly was still at large.

Some local media in Monterrey had speculated that Ortiz himself had been abducted after he disappeared from view Wednesday. But prosecutors said he had been arrested at his home in a Monterrey suburb that day after two kidnapping suspects were detained Monday and implicated him in the crimes.

Prosecutors said that the suspects confessed to the abductions and that four criminal complaints had been filed against the gang. If convicted, Ortiz and the others could face prison sentences of up to 50 years.

Based on reporting by the Associated Press and El Universal.

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