NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. (AP) — Four people are accused of torturing a California marijuana dispensary owner with a blowtorch and cutting off his penis in an attempt to force him to reveal where he had buried piles of cash in the desert.
The defendants mistakenly believed the victim was hiding money and left him for dead on the side of the road, Orange County authorities said in announcing the case Friday.
Ryan Anthony Kevorkian, 34, and his wife Naomi Josette Kevorkian, 33, were arrested Friday in Fresno, a day after the FBI arrested 34-year-old Hossein Nayeri in Prague in the Czech Republic, the district attorney's office and Newport Beach police said in a joint statement.
Another man, Kyle Shirakawa Handley, 34, was arrested in October of last year.
The four have been charged with kidnapping for ransom, aggravated mayhem, torture, burglary and a sentencing enhancement for inflicting great bodily injury. They were being held without bail and could face up to life in prison without possibility of parole if convicted.
Prosecutors said the victim was a prosperous medical marijuana dispensary owner who took some of his pot suppliers — including Handley — to Las Vegas last year for an extravagant weekend.
After the trip, Handley told some friends that the dispensary owner was extremely wealthy and they came up with a plan to kidnap and rob him, according to the statement.
Four weeks before the kidnapping, the would-be robbers began shadowing the dispensary owner, following him on frequent trips he made to the desert outside of Palm Springs.
He went out to discuss a possible investment deal, but the four thought he was driving there "to bury large amounts of cash," according to the statement.
On Oct. 2, 2012, Handley, Nayeri and Ryan Kevorkian went to the man's Newport Beach home, stole cash, bound and beat him and kidnapped him along with his roommate's girlfriend, then drove them out to a desert spot in a van, authorities contend.
Throughout the drive, they allegedly burned the dispensary owner with a blowtorch.
At the spot where the men believed the victim had hidden his money, they cut off his penis, poured bleach on him in an effort to destroy any DNA evidence and dumped him and the woman on the side of the road, authorities alleged.
The three men then drove away with the penis so that it couldn't be reattached, authorities claimed.
"The woman ran over a mile to a main road in the dark, while still bound with zip ties, and flagged down a police car," according to the statement.
The man survived his injuries.
Handley was arrested after being linked to a car parked outside the dispensary owner's home the time of the attack. A neighbor who was suspicious of the vehicle had taken down its license plate, and Handley was the car's registered owner.
The statement said Handley had unspecified evidence of the crime in his home, and Nayeri was linked to the crime through DNA found on that evidence.
About a week before the attack, Nayeri was accused of refusing to pull over and leading Newport Beach police on a car chase. He crashed the car, ran and evaded capture. Police found surveillance equipment and videos inside the abandoned car, but didn't link the evidence to the attack on the dispensary owner until Nayeri was identified as a suspect.
After the crime, Nayeri fled to Iran, where he remained for several months, prosecutors said. He was arrested in Prague while changing flights from Iran to Spain to visit family, authorities said.
Nayeri was expected to face extradition proceedings.
It was not immediately known whether the Kevorkians and Nayeri had obtained lawyers.
Handley pleaded not guilty to the charges last month.
"It is my hope that by bringing to justice these three additional people it will become clear that Mr. Handley was not involved in this demonic criminal enterprise," Robert K. Weinberg, Handley's attorney, said Friday.