MOIRA — A seventh man arrested in connection with the kidnapping of a Moira couple in an effort to extort cash or drugs from a family member was ordered held over for additional court action in Quebec provincial court on Friday.
Gary Arnold, 54, of Hinchinbrooke, is facing the same seven charges — including kidnapping, forcible confinement, extortion and conspiracy — as four other men arrested in Quebec in the Sept. 27 kidnapping of James and Sandra Helm, said Audrey Roy Cloutier, a spokesperson for the Directeur aux poursuites criminelles et pénales — the provincial prosecutor’s office in Montreal.
A fifth man, a resident of Akwesasne, Quebec, who has not been identified by authorities, was released after being detained briefly on Tuesday, when the Helms were found in a house in Magog, and a Plattsburgh man is facing charges in the U.S. for allegedly conspiring with the kidnappers.
Arnold was arrested late Thursday night after being stopped by a Surete du Quebec SWAT team while driving on the chemin des Outardes in Hinchinbrooke. He appeared in provincial court on Friday and will return with the others on Tuesday.
Those previously charged in the case are as Franco D’Onofrio, 55, and George Dritsas, 75, of Magog; Kosnas Dritsas, 49, of Ville Mont-Royal; and Taylor Lawrence Martin, 36, of Akwesasne, all of whom have connections to drug trafficking in Quebec, according to Canadian media.
D’Onofrio has multiple drug arrests and was sentenced in 2012 to 15 years in prison after police who had stopped him for driving erratically found 91 bricks of cocaine valued at $3 million to $5 million hidden in garbage bags in his car. George Dritsas also has multiple drug arrests and his son Kosnas Dritsas has ties to the Rock Machine motorcycle club, which waged a violent war with the Hells Angels over control of the drug trade in Montreal and the province more broadly in the early 1990s. Martin is the son of John “Rocky” Skidders, who has several prior drug-related convictions, according to Canadian Media reports.
The Plattsbugh man, Graigory Brown, 50, was charged in the U.S. on Thursday with conspiring to kidnap James and Sandra Helms and transport them across the border to Canada. He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted in the case.
According to the complaint filed in federal court against Brown, he and his co-conspirators forcibly entered the victims’ home on Route 95 in Moira and kidnapped them on Sunday — the last day they had been seen. The investigation into their disappearance began the next day.
The victims were driven to Snye, Quebec, where they were put in a boat, taken to mainland Canada, and then transported to Quebec’s eastern townships where they were held for several days, the complaint said.
While the Helms were being held in Canada, Brown’s co-conspirators communicated ransom demands to one of the victims’ children. Officers from the Surete du Quebec rescued the victims from the house in Magog on Sept. 29 as three suspects and the Helms were leaving the residence.
“According to the complaint, Brown and his co-conspirators put an elderly couple through a terrifying ordeal,” Acting United States Attorney Antoinette T. Bacon said announcing the arrest
FBI Special Agent in Charge Thomas F. Relford said, “Mr. Brown’s alleged actions put an innocent couple in harm’s way during a truly terrifying situation. Through swift coordination with our law enforcement partners at NYS Police, Suerte du Quebec, and the Akwesasne Mohawk Police, we were able to bring the victims home safely and ensure justice will be served for those responsible for this despicable act.”