Accused in kidnapping of N.Y. couple to return to court for bail hearing Oct. 20

Five Quebec men charged following the kidnapping of a couple from northern New York in what authorities allege was a misguided settling of accounts will return to court later this month.

In a hearing Tuesday, George Dritsas of Magog, Que., Taylor Lawrence Martin of Akwesasne and Gary Arnold of Hinchinbrooke, Que., had bail hearings set to run between Oct. 20 and Oct. 22 in Montreal.

A spokeswoman for the Crown says two others accused in the case, Kosnas Dritsas of Town of Mount Royal and Franco D'Onofrio, also of Magog, will have their cases return to court on those dates as well.

Four of the men were arrested on Sept. 29 in relation to the abduction of James Helm Jr. and Sandra Helm, while Arnold was arrested on Oct. 1.

The accused all face charges of kidnapping, forcible confinement and extortion in connection with the abduction of the couple from Moira, a town not far from the New York-Quebec border.

A sixth man, Graigory Brown, 50, of Plattsburgh, N.Y., also faces charges in the United States.

Court documents filed in connection with Brown's case suggest alleged drug dealers looking to recover 50 kilograms of cocaine kidnapped the Helms -- grandparents of the person they were seeking to retrieve the drugs from -- and held them for two nights in a Quebec town.

In the criminal complaint against Brown, an FBI agent described a harrowing series of events aimed at recovering a drug cache that, it turns out, had already been seized by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

The abduction came to light when James Helm, 76, failed to show up for work as town highway superintendent on Sept. 28.

The couple were ferried to Quebec through Akwesasne, a Mohawk reserve that straddles the border, with hoods over their heads, the documents say.

The couple's son, who reported the couple missing, got a phone call from a man police call "Co-Conspirator A," who said he and his associates had the Helms and wanted to exchange them for 50 kilograms of cocaine they believed "Individual-1" had stolen. As an alternative, they would accept $3.5 million, the cocaine's value.

The criminal complaint against Brown doesn't identify "Individual-1" or specify his relationship to the Helms. But the couple's grandson, Macenzie Helm, 28, and his mother, Michelle Helm, had been arrested by DEA agents in South Burlington, Vt., a week earlier. Court documents say they were transporting a duffel bag of cocaine for a larger organization. The bust wasn't publicized, so the traffickers didn't know the DEA had seized the cocaine.

According to an FBI affidavit filed in Brown's case, authorities found the couple by tracing the location of cellphones involved in the kidnapping.

Quebec provincial police found the house in Magog where the Helms were being held and arrested four of the Quebecers on Sept. 29. At the house, investigators recognized a chair and some trees seen in a "proof of life"' photo sent by the kidnappers, the U.S. documents say.

Despite the ordeal, the couple are reportedly doing well.

-- this report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 7, 2020.

-- with files from The Associated Press.

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