SAN ANTONIO - A San Antonio man was wrongfully deported across the border by the U.S. Border Patrol and then held for ransom by Mexican cartel members until being rescued by the FBI, a federal lawsuit claims.
The federal claim against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security was filed Sept. 17 by the local Espinoza Law Firm.
The law firm said the federal government has six months from that date to respond before a lawsuit can be filed.
According to the claim, Julio Cesar Ovalle, 24, was walking out of his Far West Side neighborhood around 9 a.m. to a nearby H-E-B on Potranco Road when he was stopped by a Border Patrol agent on June 11.
The agent asked Ovalle for his "papers," to which the lawsuit said Ovalle told him he was a U.S. citizen born in California and lives in San Antonio but he did not have his identification on him, just money and his cellphone.
Ovalle asked the agent if he could call someone to bring him his ID card, birth certificate and passport to prove his citizenship but the agent refused and began deportation proceedings, the claim said.
The next day, Border Patrol agents took Ovalle to Laredo where his immigration status was questioned and he was told to sign documents despite Ovalle's inability to read and speak English.
Shortly after on the same day, Ovalle was deported to Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, Mexico, according to the claim.
According to the claim, Ovalle was deported without seeing a judge, making a phone call and without access to an attorney or an opportunity to validate his citizenship.
After being deported to Mexico, Ovalle was able to call his father, who said he would bring Ovalle's passport, ID card and birth certificate and pick him up.
The claim, however, said Ovalle was kidnapped by cartel members while he was waiting outside the Mexican Immigration Center. The claim added Ovalle was taken to a house outside Nuevo Laredo.
Ovalle's family said they received calls from the cartel members demanding ransom money in exchange for their son.
Ovalle's father was able to get in contact with the FBI in Laredo, who three days later was able to get the cartel members to release Ovalle after working with Mexican authorities.
"Although (Ovalle's) life was spared, the events ... caused (him) to suffer severe emotional distress," the claim stated. "(Ovalle) attempted to commit suicide, has been hospitalized, still suffers from trauma and is still seeking treatment."
The federal claim is seeking $1 million in damages for personal injury.
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