Edinburg — Uriel ‘’Eli’ Del Alba was rescued by police, but not before his kidnappers faded into the morning fog with a $150,000 ransom.
Seven gunmen abducted Del Alba from his ranch north of town in November, making the 57-year-old businessman one of the latest victims of a relentless crime wave plaguing the South Texas border.
Crime in Mexico —gangland decapitations have become a gruesome fad this year — has grabbed most of the headlines.
Meanwhile, the kidnapping trade has quietly flourished in the Rio Grande Valley, where Americans have about the same chance of getting abducted as they do in Mexico, officials say.
Since early 2004, there have been 78 kidnappings in Hidalgo County alone. And neighboring Starr County registered 19 kidnap or missing person cases in 2005 and 2006.
That compares with 98 kidnappings of Americans in all of Mexico in 2005 and 2006.
Kidnappings in the Valley are even outpacing those in the notorious Mexican border town of Nuevo Laredo, where the FBI says 60 U.S. citizens have been abducted since April 2004.