BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A man whose body was found in a burned down Southwest Baltimore house last month was held for ransom, tortured, shot and set on fire, according to court documents obtained by WJZ. A man has been arrested in connection with the grisly crime.

The victim, 35-year-old Miguel Soto Diaz, was a suspected marijuana trafficker from California who had traveled to Baltimore to negotiate drug deliveries to the city, according to an affidavit for an arrest warrant filed Monday by the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

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Diaz was taken hostage by a man he was negotiating with in Baltimore who demanded a ransom of 200 pounds of marijuana and $50,000, investigators allege.

Ziyon Isaiah Thompson, a 21-year-old man from Baltimore, is in custody and is charged with interference with interstate commerce by extortion and conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute controlled substances.

Investigators allege Thompson brought and used a pre-paid phone to use as a “ransom phone” to extort Diaz’s associates in California.

Miguel Soto Diaz, 35

Diaz’s body was discovered May 8 as firefighters put out a fire at what was believed to be an unoccupied home in the 300 block of Furrow Street, authorities said.

On the same day, two of Diaz’s associates reported to California police that Diaz had been abducted by someone known to them at “Fats” or “Ziyon Isiah,” according to the affidavit. The ATF used Instagram photos and facial recognition software to determine the two were referring to Thompson.

A female associate, referred to as “A.M.” in the document, told authorities Thompson reached out to her through Instagram to obtain marijuana. They allegedly established a relationship in which the two associates and Diaz “trafficked large quantities of marijuana” for Thompson.

The California associates provided Ring Doorbell camera images from when Thompson visited their home in April to see their operation, the ATF said.

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Diaz allegedly arranged for an associate to fly and deliver a suitcase full of marijuana to Thompson in Baltimore. Then on May 7, Diaz took a flight to Baltimore to discuss further business with Thompson, the document said.

That day, Thompson started using a new number from what investigators called the ransom phone. The ATF said “A.M.” communicated with Thompson to facilitate the pick-up of Diaz from BWI airport.

“A.M.” told investigators that around noon on May 8, she got a FaceTime from Thompson in which he filmed Diaz in a chair with duct tape over his mouth and zip-ties on his hands and ankles. It was in that call that he demanded the drugs and cash for Diaz’s safe return, the affidavit said.

The associate asked Thompson for a picture of Diaz, so the suspect sent a picture from the ransom phone and repeated his request for the ransom. Later that evening, “A.M.” texted Thompson: “My uncles are coming with the feds,” according to the affidavit.

“A.M.” told the authorities that the text was a lie and that it was sent at the suggestion of a family member to buy time, the agency said.

The ATF agent who submitted the affidavit said he tracked the pre-paid “ransom” phone back to Thompson, finding CCTV evidence that Thompson had brought the phone hours before Diaz landed.

“I believe that Thompson pre-planned the abduction and robbery of Soto-Diaz as evidenced by his purchase of what he believed to be a phone number that could not be traced back to him,” the agent wrote.

A WJZ investigation found that the owner of the Furrow Street house had been trying to evict squatters for months. A judge eventually ordered an eviction of the squatters in April but more than two weeks passed, and the sheriff’s office—backlogged with cases—was unable to carry it out before the fire. 

There is an $8,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest in the homicide. Anyone with information about this case is asked to call police at 410-396-2100 or Metro Crime Stoppers at 1-866-7LOCKUP.

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CBS Baltimore Staff