A group of drug dealers allegedly tried to get $3.5 million in cocaine from an associate by snatching the guy’s grandparents in upstate New York — and holding them hostage in Canada, federal authorities said.
James Helm, 76, and his wife, Sandra, 70, were kidnapped by four men from their home Sept. 27 in Moira and transported over the border with coverings over their heads, according to a complaint filed in federal court.
The next day, James failed to show up for work as town highway superintendent. One of the couple’s sons went to their house to check on them, found the front door open and called state troopers, authorities said.
The son later got a phone call from a man who said he and his associates were holding the couple hostage.
The caller said they wanted to exchange them for the 110 pounds of cocaine they believe was stolen by someone authorities identify in docs only as “Individual 1” — or for the $3.5 million the stash was worth.
The court document doesn’t say whether “Individual-1” had any relationship to the Helms, but their grandson, Macenzie Helm, 28, and his mom, Michelle Helm, had been busted a week earlier in Burlington, Vermont, for allegedly transporting cocaine for a larger organization.
The Drug Enforcement Administration seized 110 pounds of cocaine from a rented van, but the bust wasn’t made public so any associates wouldn’t have known, CTV News reported.
By tracing cellphone data, Canadian authorities were able to find the home in Magog where the elderly couple was being held captive and rescue them, authorities said.
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Father and son George and Kosmas Dritsas, ages 75 and 49, respectively; Taylor Martin, 36; Franco D’Onofrio, 55, and Gary Arnold, 45, were all arrested in connection to the alleged abduction, the Watertown Daily Times reported.
They appeared Tuesday morning in Montreal court on extortion and kidnapping charges, outlets reported.
Another man, Graigory Brown, 50, of Plattsburgh, was also nabbed Friday after his license plate was linked to the kidnapping ordeal.
When reached by phone Tuesday, James Helm said he has been advised not to talk about the case, but added that the couple was “doing all right.”
“They seem to be doing fairly well,” Moira Town Supervisor Justus Martin said. “They’re just trying to lay low and recover.”
Macenzie and Michelle Helm both pleaded not guilty to one count of conspiracy to distribute a large amount of cocaine this week and were released from custody, NBC 5 reports.
With Post wires
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