The FBI is offering a $40,000 reward to help find a California woman who went missing in Mexico while returning home from work with her dog.
Monica de Leon Barba, 29, was kidnapped and forced into a car in Tepatitlán de Morelos, a city in the western Mexican state of Jalisco, on November 29 around 5pm — a Wednesday marking four months since her disappearance.
Friends worried about De Leon’s whereabouts when she failed to show up at the local FIT 4 LIFE gym. When they go out looking for her, they find her dog running all over town.
The FBI’s San Francisco field office told SF portal that De Leon Barba has been in Mexico since June 2022. The family said she has traveled there frequently to work on her photography portfolio and to visit family. Her plan was to fly home to San Mateo before the Christmas holidays but it never arrived.
Her disappearance comes amid a series of kidnappings of US citizens in Mexico, as authorities have urged Americans to avoid traveling to high-risk areas.
Monica de Leon Barba, 29, was heading to FIT 4 LIFE, a gym located in Tepatitlan de Morelos, a city in the western Mexican state of Jalisco when she was kidnapped on November 29 around 5 p.m.
The FBI is offering up to $40,000 to provide information leading to the recovery of Monica de Leon Barba
Earlier this week, the FBI field office in San Francisco offered a massive reward of up to $40,000 and asked for the public’s help in locating De Leon Barba.
“We believe this was a targeted kidnapping,” Robert Tripp, the FBI special agent in charge in San Francisco, told KTVU Thursday.
We think she’s still being held hostage. The hostage takers have been in contact with her family, and the FBI is working closely with her family and with authorities in Mexico to bring her home safely.”
The family has set up a Facebook group called Help Us Find Monica to share prayers and to ask anyone with information about her mysterious disappearance to help the authorities locate her.
A friend of the family that runs the group told DailyMail.com that De León Barba’s family is not currently speaking to the press due to the ongoing investigation.
But, the missing woman’s brother, Gustavo De Leon, wrote a post on Facebook after the FBI announced his reward on Thursday.
“It has been four difficult months since my sisters were kidnapped, although great efforts are made every day to bring them home, today we find ourselves far from that goal.”
I can’t help but think of the sheer fear and agony I’ve faced these past 121 days, which is why I appeal to anyone who sees this message to help spread the word that the FBI has now issued a reward for any information leading to my sister’s safe return.
Whoever can help me, contact the local politicians and get them to help us get my sister home in whatever capacity they can.
I ask you to help me also contact Ken Salazar (United States Ambassador to Mexico) and request the full cooperation and support of the leaders of the Mexican State until my sister’s safe return.
“Since the time my sisters were kidnapped, we have all seen news of many American citizens who were deprived of their liberty while traveling in Mexico,” he said.
We cannot allow this to be the status quo and I will not allow my sister to become another statistic of cowardice and inaction in politics.
“Help me flood their phone lines and saturate their inbox so my sister Monica De Leon is safe at home.”
The family of the missing woman has urged California Senator Alex Padilla and Congresswoman Jackie Speer to help with the search, KTVU mentioned.
The FBI said the kidnapping of De Leon Barba is among a series of kidnappings of US citizens in Mexico in recent months.
On February 9, Maria del Carmen López, 63, disappeared in Pueblo Nuevo, Colima. On March 3, four Americans were kidnapped and two massacred in the border town of Matamoros. The four individuals were traveling south so one of them could have a tummy tuck.
With spring breakers poised to travel across the border for some fun and enjoy the sun, the US government has designated nearly every state in Mexico as a travel risk, with many designated as “do not travel” or “consider travel.”
The regions of Colima and Tamaulipas had a “no travel” advice in place and the Jalisco region, where de Leon was last seen, had a “reconsider travel” due to high crime and kidnapping rates in those areas.
The US government urged the spring seasons heading to Cabo, Cancun and Tulum to “exercise caution.”
De Leon was heading to Gym Fit 4 Life before she was kidnapped on November 29, 2022
The cartel’s escalating violence is a stark reminder that behind the stunning, sun-kissed resorts lies a bloody drug war and visitors should heed with caution.
Brown-haired, brown-eyed, white and Hispanic, De Leon Barba is 5 feet 7 inches tall and weighs approximately 240 pounds.
The day before she was kidnapped, she spoke with her family and shared a picture of her attire: a black T-shirt, black pants and a white beanie.
DailyMail.com has reached out to the Jalisco State Attorney General’s Office.
Anyone with information about De Leon Barba is urged to contact their local FBI office or the nearest US embassy or consulate. They can also submit a tip online at tips.fbi.gov or call the FBI’s toll-free information line at 1-800-CALL-FBI (1-800-225-5324).