A Texas woman is accused of kidnapping an immigrant baby and holding her for ransom for months

An El Paso woman is accused of kidnapping the baby of an immigrant who had recently crossed the border and holding her for ransom for several months.

Jenna Leigh Roark, 45, was arrested in September on charges of kidnapping and accessory after the fact, according to a federal criminal complaint.

According to prosecutors, the FBI was contacted Sept. 26 by the St. Petersburg Police Department in Florida after a Honduran national told police she had been separated from her infant son since May and was being blackmailed in exchange for the child’s safe return. The woman, referred to as “VICTIM” in the complaint, was living in Florida at the time, prosecutors said.

According to the complaint, the unidentified mother said she had crossed the US-Mexico border in May and approached a man and woman at an El Paso apartment complex to ask them for directions to the nearest Gray Hound bus station. The two then offered to give the mother a ride, the complaint said.

The immigrant said that during the ride, Roark, who identified herself as “Jane” to the mother, told the woman she was going to keep her son. Roark exchanged numbers with the mother, telling her they would stay in touch, according to the complaint.

“Jane periodically sent VICTIM pictures and videos of (her) son, and VICTIM and (her) son spoke on the phone two to three times a week,” the complaint said.

The complaint does not specify why the mother agreed to leave her child with Roark or other details about the alleged abduction.

Roark would initially demand $8,000 from the mother, but later reduced the amount to $5,800, prosecutors said.

Roark had been arrested on September 16 by the Texas Department of Public Safety on a separate charge of human trafficking. Roark had stopped at a motel and picked up three undocumented people, the complaint said.

When Roark was arrested, one of her daughters was in the front seat of her car, holding a baby boy who Roark claimed was her other daughter’s son. But when the daughter Roark claimed was the mother gave authorities conflicting information about the child’s identity, the infant was placed in the care of Child Protective Services and an investigation began, the complaint said.

This child was later identified by Honduras as her son.

During an interview with Texas DPS, Roark claimed her husband had problems with the Mexican Mafia and said there was a group of 29 immigrants he was supposed to pick up, of which only four were taken, according to the complaint. She claimed the baby had been sent to her by a man in Mexico she called Richard, the complaint said.

According to the complaint, Roark told Texas DPS that Richard had kept the child and sent the mother and her other two children to the US.

“(The) SON was eventually brought to the United States by an unknown woman and ROARK was supposed to care for the child until payment was made by the VICTIM,” the complaint said.

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