Man extradited from Mexico to U.S. to face kidnapping charges

Woman was carjacked and kidnapped in Indio

INDIO, Calif. - On Tuesday, a judge quadrupled bail for a man who was  recently captured in Mexico to face charges of carjacking and kidnapping a woman at knifepoint in Indio 14 years ago.

Mario Lua Mendoza, a now-41-year-old U.S. citizen, was charged in January 2000 with one count of carjacking -- with a sentence-enhancing allegation of using a knife -- and one count of kidnapping.

He pleaded not guilty at his arraignment Tuesday afternoon at Indio's Larson Justice Center, where Riverside Superior Court Judge William S. Lebov raised his bail from $250,000 to $1 million and scheduled a Feb. 24 bail review and felony settlement conference.

Mendoza's arrest last Thursday in Ensenada stemmed from a lead that Riverside County district attorney's investigators provided about the fugitive's possible whereabouts, prompting Mexican authorities to conduct surveillance on the Ensenada home of one of his relatives, D.A.'s spokesman John Hall said.

The victim of the Jan. 15, 2000, crime was grabbed from behind around 5:30 a.m. and forced into her vehicle at knifepoint in Indio. The woman -- who was also struck in the face with a bat and tied up -- was driven to a vineyard near Highway 86 and Avenue 80 in Oasis, where the assailant ``took money from the woman and tied her to a grape tree in the middle of the vineyard before driving away,'' Hall said.

``The victim ultimately freed herself, walked to get help, and was treated at a hospital emergency room for her injuries,'' he said. Her name was withheld.

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