National News

Nov 29, 2013 10:42 AM by Ian Auzenne

Trial rescheduled in kidnapping of woman

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - A federal judge has rescheduled the trial of a man charged with kidnapping a woman in Florida with plans to force her to work as a prostitute before she escaped and went to police in Mississippi.

Authorities say Jacobo Feliciano-Francisco and another man abducted the woman from her yard in Panama City Beach, Fla., on June 27 with the intentions of forcing her into prostitution in Baton Rouge, La.

She escaped through the bathroom window of a house in Hattiesburg, Miss., that night and went to the police department, according to court records.

The woman had been a witness in a prior human trafficking case, which led to numerous convictions in Tennessee and Kentucky.

Feliciano-Francisco, also known as Uriel Castillo-Ochoa, is charged in U.S. District Court in Panama City, Fla., with five counts, including kidnapping and retaliating against a witness. He pleaded not guilty on Aug. 12.

He had been scheduled for trial Dec. 9, but it has been changed to March 10.

His attorney requested the delay, saying she needs more time to prepare for the trial. The lawyer did not immediately respond to a message left by The Associated Press.

Authorities said the victim was in her yard in Florida when Feliciano-Francisco and an unidentified man forced her into a car and drove to Feliciano-Francisco's house in Hattiesburg. Investigators say Feliciano-Francisco sexually assaulted the victim and planned to force her to work as a prostitute.

Feliciano-Francisco was arrested at the house that night.

As part of the investigation, another man named Ruperto Moncillo Flores, was arrested on Interstate 59 in Jones County, Miss., the day of the abduction. Investigators say that Flores was transporting a woman from Georgia to Louisiana when he was told to stop in Hattiesburg and pick up the kidnapping victim, but his van broke down and he was arrested on the side of the highway.

Flores pleaded guilty in October in federal court in Hattiesburg to one count of transporting a woman across state lines for prostitution.

The charge against him was related to the woman in the vehicle with him at the time of his arrest. He never made it to pick up the kidnapping victim.

Authorities said there was no evidence to suggest that he knew the woman in Hattiesburg had been abducted, only that he was to pick her up and take her to Louisiana for the purpose of prostitution.

During Flores' plea hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Annette Williams said the kidnapping victim heard her abductors call someone to take her to a "house of prostitution" in Baton Rouge, La. Williams said Flores, of Lawrenceville, Ga., was arrested when his van broke down before he made it to pick up the kidnapping victim in Hattiesburg.

The woman with Flores when he was arrested told police that Flores was taking her from Georgia to Louisiana for prostitution. It led to the charge against Flores - a violation of the Mann Act. Flores is scheduled for sentencing Jan. 16.

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