Couple plead guilty in kidnapping of elderly couple from New York State

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Two men pleaded guilty on Friday in a case that saw an elderly couple abducted from their New York state home, smuggled into Canada and held against their will in a Magog home.

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During a hearing before Court of Quebec judge Dennis Galiatsatos at the Montreal courthouse, Franco D’Onofrio, 56, of Magog, pleaded guilty to the seven counts he was facing, including two counts kidnapping, forcible confinement and extortion.

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George Dritsas, 76, of Town of Mount-Royal, pleaded guilty to forcible confinement.

A temporary publication ban was imposed on other matters discussed at Friday’s hearing.

Both men have been behind bars since their arrest on September 29, 2020.

Days before the arrests, James and Sandra Helm, aged 76 and 70 respectively at the time, were abducted from their home in Moira, New York, about 25 kilometers from the Canadian border. They were smuggled into Canada and held in a house in Magog for two days before being rescued by the Sûreté du Québec.

The couple were unharmed during the abduction, but James Helm has since died of natural causes.

Details of how the investigation led the SQ to the Magog property are part of the temporary publication ban.

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