The FBI is offering a reward of up to $40,000 for information leading to the recovery of an American citizen kidnapped in Mexico.
On November 29, 2022, Monica de Leon Barba was kidnapped in Tepatitlán, which is located in Mexico’s Jalisco state. De Leon Barba was walking home from work with her dog, the FBI confirmed Thursday.
Federal officials are seeking the public’s help to locate de Leon Barba. The FBI described her as 5-foot-7 with brown hair and brown eyes. She is 29 years old.
The FBI in San Francisco confirmed to USA TODAY that officials “have pursued a number of investigative leads in our search for Monica.”
“We believe that Monica is alive, but we don’t know where she is located. We believe it was a targeted kidnapping, and that Monica is an innocent victim,” the office said, declining to provide additional details of the ongoing investigation
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De Leon Barba’s family has called the time since she was kidnapped “torturous,” NBC Bay Area reported.
Gustavo de Leon, De Leon Barba’s brother, told the outlet his sister is “kind and smart and loyal to the end.”
“And she’s a helluva lot tougher than I am,” he said. “I would very much like to have my sister back, before time runs out.”
Quin Boreen, who employed de Leon Barba and is a friend, called her kidnapping “shocking,” CBS San Francisco reported.
“I’ve read things like this in the news, but I never obviously experienced it firsthand,” Boreen said. “It’s terrifying.”
Four Americans were violently abducted in Mexico earlier this month. While two members of the group returned to the U.S., the other two were killed after getting caught in a shootout in the border city of Matamoros in Tamaulipas state, Mexican authorities confirmed.
The high-profile kidnappings prompted some to turn to travel experts about whether it’s currently safe to go to Mexico. The State Department advises that Americans should not travel to 6 states in Mexico and should reconsider travel to 7 states.
In 2021, nearly 29 million American travelers went to Mexico, and about 75 American citizens died by homicide in the country.
Contributing: Kathleen Wong, USA TODAY