LAS VEGAS - Authorities investigating the abduction of a 6-year-old boy from his Las Vegas home focused Saturday on three people, including a Mexican citizen and the youngster's grandfather, who they said may have stolen millions of dollars from drug dealers.
The Mexican man, identified as Jesus Gastelum, is in his mid-30s and believed to be in Las Vegas or Southern California, police said at a news conference. The other "person of interest" was not identified.
Authorities already had arrested the grandfather of Cole Puffinburger, who was abducted Wednesday morning by two men posing as police officers. Police said they believe that the men were Mexican drug dealers and that the kidnapping at gunpoint was a "message" to the grandfather, Clemens Tinnemeyer, 51.
Tinnemeyer was arrested late Friday in Riverside, Calif. He was being held in nearby San Bernardino on a material witness warrant issued by a federal court in Nevada, and authorities hope his arrest will help lead them to Cole's abductors. Detectives continue to investigate "a very strong network, all in very close proximity," Las Vegas police Capt. Vincent Cannito said Saturday.
"As we start putting those pieces together, certainly we're optimistic that it's leading us in the right direction," Cannito said.
He told reporters the investigation had resulted in "a number of search warrants in several jurisdictions." Officials also uncovered a "large amount of cash," but Cannito would not say where.
Authorities had issued an Amber Alert that triggered a public search for the boy and flashed the photo on billboards and highway signs throughout Nevada and California. The alert was called off Saturday because it helped lead to the arrest of Tinnemeyer, and its effectiveness "had run its course," Cannito said.
But the hunt for Cole continued.
Police concentrated efforts on a largely Hispanic neighborhood northeast of the Las Vegas Strip. Along with children's advocates and members of the Nevada National Guard, they circulated fliers in English and Spanish with photos of Cole - a slight, bespectacled towhead - grinning wide.
Cole's father, Robert Puffinburger, distributed the fliers earlier in the week.
In an interview aired Saturday on CNN, he spoke directly to his son's abductors: "I just want him home. Drop him off somewhere, I don't care. Just let him go."
The two men entered the home and tied up the boy's mother and her boyfriend. The home was then ransacked and the boy taken; Cannito said earlier that a third man was believed to be involved. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that Tinnemeyer was Cole's maternal grandfather.
Tinnemeyer may have stolen millions of dollars from the Mexican citizens, said Officer Cris Johnson, a Las Vegas police spokesman. Johnson declined to say what role Tinnemeyer played in the drug operation or whether the kidnappers were seeking a ransom.
Police believe methamphetamine was involved, Johnson said.
"Money is a huge factor, obviously. Drugs are a huge factor," Johnson said. "The only innocent person involved in this entire operation is the boy."
Las Vegas police didn't know Saturday whether Tinnemeyer had a lawyer. He was scheduled to appear before a federal magistrate Monday in Riverside.
Court records show Tinnemeyer and his wife filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy in 2001, claiming $226,500 in assets and $329,000 in liabilities. The couple listed tens of thousands of dollars in credit card debt.