Police: Ransom plot foiled



LAWRENCEVILLE ­— Authorities said a quick-thinking kidnapping victim outsmarted her captor during a harrowing Sunday ordeal, setting up his arrest with the help of a language barrier.

The alleged victim, Carolina Lopera, 23, was using an automated DVD rental kiosk about 10:30 p.m. Sunday outside a CVS Pharmacy at Herrington and Cruse roads when she felt something pressed into her back. A man standing behind Lopera told her the object was a gun, and ordered her into the passenger seat of her own vehicle, police said.

The suspect drove Lopera to several locations, directing her to withdraw $500 from ATMs using her bank card.

“The victim told the suspect her card was a credit card and she did not have a PIN number to make withdrawals,” said Gwinnett police spokesman Cpl. Edwin Ritter. “The suspect then directed her to make purchases of drinks and cigarettes and get cash back,” which didn’t work either, Ritter said.

After about 45 minutes of failed attempts, the suspect told Lopera that he would settle for $100 in cash and let her go. The money, she said, was at a nearby friend’s house, who spoke only Spanish. The suspect agreed to let Lopera use her cellphone to orchestrate the transaction, police said.

Unbeknownst to her non-Spanish-speaking captor, Lopera informed her friend of the ransom plot, and that information was relayed to police. Officers directed Lopera to bring the suspect to a nearby subdivision, where several officers concealed cruisers near the entrance.

Police pounced when Lopera’s car entered the neighborhood, stopping the vehicle and arresting the alleged driver, Lawrenceville resident Ronald Dean Foster, 45, without incident. No weapons were located on the suspect or in the vehicle, Ritter said.

“The successful resolution was due, in large part, to the quick thinking of the victim,” said Gwinnett police Cpl. Jake Smith.

Police said Lopera was not physically harmed during the ordeal but remained shaken Wednesday and did not want to speak with media. She told police she’d never seen Foster before.

Foster remains jailed without bond on charges of robbery, kidnapping, theft by taking and terroristic threats and acts.

In an unrelated interview in November, Foster outlined his hardscrabble past for a Daily Post feature on Meet The Need Ministries, where he was serving as “pastor” for homeless men and convicts who, like himself, had fallen on hard times.

Foster told the Daily Post he was a recovering methamphetamine addict and former college football linebacker who later turned to meth to stay awake while driving trucks for a living. He’d landed in prison and led a white-supremacist gang but had since devoted his life to religion, he told the Daily Post.

Jane Alvarez, Meet the Need’s executive director, said Wednesday that Foster had left the ministry in December and “went back to the streets.”

“He had done great for over two years,” Alvarez said. “There are so many men here that say he was totally responsible for turning their lives around.”

Lawrenceville police arrested Foster in April on drug and traffic charges. Records show he was released from jail three weeks ago in that case.