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Abduction A Numbing Experience For Elvin Claudio: Alaska Safer Than Coral Springs

The spooked victim of a Coral Springs parking lot abduction and robbery -- rescued from a Miami motel where he was held hostage -- may leave South Florida


December 28, 2003
Copyright ©2003 THE MIAMI HERALD. All rights reserved.

It was Saturday, 24 hours after his kidnapping, and forklift operator Elvin Claudio was no closer to finding peace.

The Coral Springs victim and his wife are considering a move to Alaska, where Claudio's father lives.

At 6:30 a.m. on Friday, the shy newlywed left his Sherwood Forest ground-floor apartment, the one hidden under the stairwell with peeling pink paint. He walked the 15 yards it takes to reach his 1996 green Geo Metro hatchback parked in the lot.

Meagan Morton, 27, and Rudolph Vittorio, 23, were also there. They approached Claudio for a ride, Coral Springs police said. The couple seemed nice enough, the young man thought.

They weren't.

After Claudio started the Geo's engine, one of them held up a gun, according to his paternal uncle, José Antonio Claudio. They wanted an escort to score cocaine, using Claudio's savings and a maximum cash advance off his credit card, he said.

The relative retold the story his nephew was too shaken to repeat to strangers.

''It's a big shame,'' José Antonio Claudio said from his Margate home on Saturday. ``He just started making a life for himself here.''

His wife Luz discovered that her husband was in danger after Vittorio called her for the personal identification number to their credit card. She called her father-in-law in Alaska, who told her to call the police. He then called his brother, José Antonio Claudio, who got in his car and went looking for the trio.

The uncle saw the Geo at the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Powerline Road in Pompano Beach, but lost the car at the stoplight.

Miami police and Florida Department of Law Enforcement agents eventually found the three, in part by tracing ATM transactions from Claudio's account. Agents swooped into a motel room at the Bays Inn, in the 3500 block of Biscayne Boulevard in Miami, and arrested Vittorio, who is from Coral Springs, and Morton, whose permanent address is unknown. Both were charged with extortion, armed carjacking and armed kidnapping. Morton was also charged with possession of controlled substances.

Claudio made it out unharmed.

''We left Puerto Rico to be safer,'' José Antonio Claudio said. ``He doesn't feel safe now.''

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