This map shows the location where a group of Sonoran ranch hands were reportedly tied to the border fence on Jan. 19.

Authorities discovered two Mexican males tied to the border fence west of Nogales and three more who said they had received similar treatment at the hands of armed kidnappers.

The subjects were discovered Thursday night by agents operating a remote surveillance camera at the Nogales Border Patrol Station, who spotted them in an area known as Green Canyon near Border Monument 125, according to Santa Cruz County Sheriff Antonio Estrada.

Field agents dispatched to the scene encountered two people still tied to the U.S. side of the fence and three more who had managed to free themselves, Estrada said. A sixth member of the group had apparently fled the scene.

The subjects reportedly told agents they had been working at a ranch on the Mexican side of the border when they were accosted by a group of four-to-six unknown individuals armed with rifles. The assailants allegedly struck some of the ranch hands with their rifle butts before tying them to the fence.

Asked why the victims would have been tied to the U.S. side of the fence if they were assaulted and kidnapped in Mexico, Estrada said: “They obviously wanted Border Patrol to pick them up.”

Estrada said the circumstances that led to alleged kidnapping weren’t clear from the information received by his office.

“It could be a combination of things,” he said. “It could be a rip-off, maybe they didn’t pay their way through, maybe they didn’t get permission to go through there, maybe they interfered… Who knows what the dynamics of that situation are.”

The assault reportedly happened at around 6-7 p.m. and according to the sheriff’s dispatch report, the Border Patrol encountered the victims at 9:45 p.m. that night.

All of the victims picked up by agents were from Sonora: two each from Nogales and Ciudad Obregon and one from Hermosillo, Estrada said. A Border Patrol spokesman said three were adults and two were juveniles. One adult subject suffered an unspecified laceration, another adult had a head wound and a juvenile had a pre-existing wound that was re-aggravated.

In June, three men were found tied to the fence west of Nogales after they apparently refused to cross drug loads.

Estrada said the incidents show how organized border crime activity in Mexico is “kind of spilling over to these mostly rural areas.”

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