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An elderly North Carolina couple was held hostage in their home by armed men who threatened to “cut off (the) husband’s toes and genitalia, to shoot him, and to rape his wife,” before they were robbed of more than $156,000 in cryptocurrency, federal prosecutors said.
Prosecutors allege that while pretending to be construction workers Elmer Ruben Castro and Remy Ra St. Felix went to the couple’s Durham home around 7:30 a.m. on April 12 and claimed they needed to inspect pipes for damage, according to a federal criminal complaint unsealed Thursday.
The complaint was for Jarod Gabriel Seemungal, a third man prosecutors said was responsible for finding the victims.
Castro and St. Felix, dressed in reflective vests and khaki pants, told the couple, both 76, that they needed to walk around their property to look for issues with the pipes.
Soon after, the men knocked on the door for a second time. When the wife answered, they forced their way into the home, restrained the couple and robbed them.
Prosecutors said the men traveled from Florida to North Carolina to commit the crime and had surveilled the house for three days prior to the home invasion, according to the complaint.
Castro and St. Felix, armed with handguns, allegedly restrained and zip-tied the couple. The wife was then dragged by her legs into the bathroom and detained by Castro, according to the complaint. Felix allegedly forced the husband into a home office, cut his zip-tie and made him log into his Coinbase cryptocurrency account.
Prosecutors said Felix was on the phone with Seemungal, who told Felix how to have the husband transfer the money from his account. Prosecutors said Seemungal knew details about the husband’s account, which led them to believe that it had been previously compromised.
Over the next 45 minutes, the men allegedly stole $156,853 in three transactions. A fourth transaction was flagged and denied by Coinbase, the complaint says.
Before leaving, the men smashed the couple’s computer and their phones and put the husband in the bathroom with his wife, according to the complaint.
The couple was later able to get to a neighbor’s house for help. They had minor injuries and were taken to a hospital, NBC affiliate WRAL of Raleigh, North Carolina, reported.
The husband told authorities that Felix was “very threatening” and “threatened to cut off Husband’s toes and genitalia, to shoot him, and to rape his wife if he didn’t access his Coinbase account,” the complaint says. Felix also hit the man in the head, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors said they obtained phone records showing the three men planning the robbery. They also had information belonging to the husband including a picture of his driver’s license and license plate number.
The complaint charges Seemungal and St. Felix with kidnapping and conspiracy to commit kidnapping. A criminal complaint for Castro was not listed.
Arrest warrants were issued for Seemungal and St. Felix on Thursday. Attorney information was not available.
Minyvonne Burke is a senior breaking news reporter for NBC News.
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