A former New Orleans resident pleaded guilty Monday to abducting a co-worker nearly three years ago and taking her to what police described as a “house of horrors” because of its trap doors, concealed cameras, chair with restraints and other chilling features.

Mario Perez Roque, 59, received a five-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to one count each of second-degree kidnapping and conspiracy to commit second-degree kidnapping, records at Jefferson Parish’s 24th Judicial District Court show.

In 2015, Perez and another man armed with a gun kidnapped a woman outside her Kenner apartment after she had previously spurned Perez's romantic advances, authorities said.

She ended up blindfolded and tied to a chair in a shotgun double house on North Lopez Street in Mid-City that had a hidden chamber, cameras overlooking rooms and a grave-like hole dug into a bedroom floor.

After the woman managed to free herself, she saw a poster-sized picture of herself hanging on the wall and fled, leaving behind her phone, purse and wallet. A passer-by saw her distress and called police for her.

Authorities arrested Perez in Metairie after speaking with the woman. They raided his Mid-City home, which they likened to a prison. And they arrested a man named Eric Mendoza after catching him driving Perez’s car in Terrytown with a handgun in his back pocket.

Investigators suspected Mendoza was Perez’s accomplice. But he didn’t implicate himself when interviewed, and the woman said she never got a good look at her second kidnapper.

Mendoza ultimately pleaded guilty to a federal charge of illegal gun possession in January 2016 and received a 10-month prison sentence.

Perez’s guilty plea on Monday came during a conference that Judge Danyelle Taylor had called to check on the case. During the hearing, the judge issued an order permanently barring Perez from coming near or contacting the victim, who is now 39.

The punishment Perez received is the minimum for second-degree kidnapping, which can carry up to 40 years in prison. He has been in jail since his arrest early in the case, and that time will count toward the completion of his sentence.

Neither Perez’s lawyer, Bruce Netterville, nor Jefferson Parish District Attorney Paul Connick’s office responded to requests for comment.

Monday’s hearing wrapped up a legal saga centering on Perez, who came to the United States from Cuba during the so-called Mariel boatlift, a large-scale migration in 1980 that stirred controversy when it was reported that some of the migrants had been released from Cuban prisons or mental health facilities.

Perez landed in trouble with the law more than once. Before his 2015 arrest, he had been convicted of kidnapping and attempted murder in New Jersey.

In a separate case dating back to the mid-2000s, Kenner police also accused Perez of attempted murder. But after spending some time in a mental institution, he pleaded guilty only to illegally possessing a gun.

In the wake of the kidnapping case, Perez’s brother acknowledged Mario Perez’s mental health problems. Yet the brother, Tony Perez, also defended Mario Perez, saying he had a complicated relationship with the woman who accused him of kidnapping and that police exaggerated some of his house’s odd features to further vilify him. 

Last year, prosecutors in New Orleans filed charges alleging that the raid on Perez's home during the kidnapping investigation found sexually explicit images of children. Prosecutors later dropped that case. 


Follow Ramon Antonio Vargas on Twitter, @RVargasAdvocate.