LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Four people have been charged with abducting the California owner of a medical marijuana dispensary, torturing him and cutting off his penis in an attempt to force him to divulge the location of cash they mistakenly believed he had hidden in the desert.
Two of the suspects, Ryan Anthony Kevorkian, 34, and Naomi Josette Kevorkian, 33, were arrested in the central California town Fresno, on Friday, a day after a third defendant, Hossein Nayeri, 34, was taken into custody in the Czech Republic.
Authorities said Nayeri had initially fled the United States to Iran for several months, and was picked up by the FBI in Prague while trying to make an airline connection to Spain to visit family there.
Kyle Shirakawa Handley, 34, the accused mastermind of the kidnapping scheme, has been in custody since he was arrested last October, not long after the crime occurred, police and prosecutors said in a joint statement.
Each of the four is charged with kidnapping, aggravated mayhem, torture and burglary, with a sentencing enhancement for inflicting great bodily injury. All are being held without bail and face a maximum penalty of life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted.
The victim was not identified, but was described as the owner of a lucrative dispensary for marijuana, which is legal in California for medical purposes.
He survived the kidnapping and mutilation ordeal but was hospitalized for an extensive period of time. Police said the suspects who abducted him fled with his severed penis so that it could never be reattached.
Details of the case, in which the FBI assisted, were outlined in a statement issued by the Newport Beach Police Department and Orange County District Attorney’s Office.
According to their account, the kidnapping plot was hatched after the victim had taken several marijuana growers who were suppliers for his pot dispensary, including Handley, on an expensive weekend trip to Las Vegas.
Handley is later suspected of telling his co-defendants that the victim was extremely wealthy, and they set about devising plans to abduct and rob him.
They went on to carry out weeks of video surveillance of the victim and followed him as he took numerous trips by car to discuss a possible investment deal, incorrectly surmising he was making those desert trips to bury large amounts of cash there, authorities said.
The plot came to a head on October 2, 2012, when the three male suspects allegedly slipped into the victim’s home, kidnapped him and the girlfriend of a roommate who happened to be there, then drove them both to the desert. They also are accused of stealing cash from the victim’s home.
According to police, the three suspects repeatedly tortured the dispensary owner during his ordeal by burning him with a blowtorch, before finally cutting off his penis.
They then poured bleach over the victim in an effort to destroy any DNA evidence before dumping both captives on the side of a road and fled. Naomi Kevorkian was not present during the kidnapping but was charged because she participated in the plan to abduct and torture the victim, according to the statement.
The woman abducted with the dispensary owner was unharmed and managed to flag down a police car after running for a mile in the dark.
The Kevorkians are expected to be arraigned on Tuesday. Nayeri faces extradition proceedings in Prague. Handley is scheduled for a preliminary hearing on November 15.
Reporting by Steve Gorman; Editing by Lisa Shumaker