New York City Man Sentenced to Nearly 26 Years in Prison
or Abducting Elderly Woman with Dementia and Obstructing FBI Investigation
December 7, 2023
U.S. Attorney's Office, Central District of California New York City man was sentenced today to 310 months in federal prison for kidnapping a 68-year-old woman with dementia at the West Los Angeles Veterans Affairs Medical Center in July 2021, then obstructing an FBI investigation into the abduction.
Johnny Ray Gasca, 53, of Bronx, New York, was sentenced by United States District Judge André Birotte Jr.
At the conclusion of a six-day bench trial, Judge Birotte on June 13 found Gasca guilty of one count of kidnapping, two counts of attempted obstruction of justice, and one count of attempted witness tampering.
"[Gasca] financially exploited [the] victim's mental fragility – describing his supposed 'girlfriend' as 'senile'... – to steal tens of thousands of dollars from her," prosecutors argued in a sentencing memorandum. "After the victim managed to get away from [Gasca], he abducted her from the grounds of a hospital where she had sought care for her dementia, in order to steal even more of her money. Immediately after the abduction, he attempted to indoctrinate her to parrot back a version of events favorable to him."
Gasca kidnapped the victim at approximately 8:30 a.m. on July 19, 2021, after the victim attempted to obtain a medical appointment at the VA facility.
The victim was accompanied by a long-time friend, and as the two of them "approached their car, Gasca appeared unexpectedly," according to court documents. "Gasca put his arms around [the victim] and pushed her toward a gold-colored pickup truck that was parked nearby. Gasca then picked [the victim] up and threw her into the rear portion of the truck's passenger compartment."
After the Department of Veteran Affairs Police Department contacted the FBI later in the morning, the victim's friend told agents she recognized Gasca, believed he previously was in some kind of relationship with the victim, and suspected Gasca may have taken some of [the victim's] money from her bank and retirement accounts.
The witness also reported that the victim previously noted she was missing some of her credit cards, and when the two went to the victim's bank to review her accounts, bank records showed a $35,000 withdrawal from the victim's retirement account, followed by several Venmo, MoneyGram and PayPal transactions that the friend believed the victim did not have "the knowledge or wherewithal" to conduct, court documents state.
Within hours of beginning its investigation, the FBI located the victim's phone at a hotel on Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles, where agents converged. Soon after, Gasca and the victim exited the hotel, leading to Gasca's arrest.
During an interview recounted in court documents, Gasca described the victim as his girlfriend and told agents that, after leaving the VA facility, they stopped at a bank where the victim made a $15,000 withdrawal.
After his arrest and while in pre-trial custody, Gasca made several jail calls to a friend in New York asking him to destroy evidence of his wrongdoing with the victim, according to evidence presented at the trial. Gasca urged the friend to erase all his messages on the Facebook Messenger app, including messages describing the victim as a "Golden goose."
In August 2021, Gasca made another jailhouse phone call to his friend and told him to collect his hard drives from his apartment before the FBI could seize them and learn of his financial exploitation of the victim.
The FBI investigated this matter and received substantial assistance from the VA Police.
Assistant United States Attorneys Kevin B. Reidy of the Major Frauds Section and Kathy Yu of the Violent and Organized Crime Section prosecuted this case.