Boy’s kidnapping involves drug deals, ‘significant amounts of money,’ police say

The disappearance of 6-year-old Cole Puffinburger this week was related to illegal drug activities involving the boy’s family, Las Vegas police said Thursday.

The case involves "significant amounts of money and drugs" and "a number of drug deals that have taken place," Capt. Vincent Cannito said.

He declined to elaborate on the drug deals or who was involved in the scheme, citing the ongoing investigation.

Sources said it’s believed that a member of Cole’s family owes a Mexican drug cartel between $8 million and $20 million.

Sources described the family member as an alleged money launderer for the cartel. The family member is in hiding.

Authorities have received between 15 to 20 contacts per hour about the boy’s disappearance, although some of those have come from people wanting more information about the suspects, said David Hatch, a consultant with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children who is now working with Las Vegas police on the case.

Police have devoted more than 100 detectives to the case, Cannito said, and the department now has several persons of interest. They also have some "very significant leads," he said.

The boy’s disappearance, which has sparked a national search involving federal and local authorities, continues to be a race against time, Cannito said.

"The longer we go, the more dangerous this situation becomes," Cannito said.

The Amber Alert for Cole’s disappearance has spread to five states. Alerts are displayed on road signs, at truck stops, gas stations, hotels and other high-traffic areas around the country, according to authorities.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Border Patrol agents have been notified to be on the lookout for the suspects, Cannito said. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is also investigating the case.

Dozens of family and friends of the boy gathered with complete strangers at a Target shopping center at Charleston and Nellis boulevards at nightfall Thursday to pick up fliers and fan out around the valley to pass them out.

Cole’s father, Robert Puffinburger, didn’t want to talk about the case but asked for his son to be returned safe.

"He’s a good kid," the 28-year-old civil engineer said with a smile. "I’m sure he’s giving them hell right now."

He had been passing out fliers since Wednesday evening.

Isa Castra and her husband, Teo, said they decided to volunteer to pass out fliers because they’re bilingual and thought that they could be helpful in Spanish-speaking neighborhoods.

She said they didn’t know Cole or his family.

"If this were to happen with one of our kids, we would want the community to come together for us," Isa Castra said.

Robert Puffinburger seemed to be in a daze as people hugged him and said they were praying for his son.

"It’s amazing how a community comes together in times like this," he said.

One of the key pieces of information in the case — a vehicle description — has yet to materialize. Police also only have the description of one of the three suspects in the case.

One of the suspects is described as having black, shoulder-length, slicked-back hair. He is in his early 30s, 5 feet 7 inches tall and about 150 pounds. He was last seen wearing a white T-shirt and blue jeans.

Police said two, possibly three, men claimed to be police officers before they entered Cole’s home on Cherry Grove Avenue, near Hollywood and Lake Mead boulevards, about 7:15 a.m.

The men demanded money, and the boy’s mother and her fiance told them they didn’t have any, police said. The men used zip ties to restrain the two, gagged them and searched the house, police said.

When they didn’t find money, they took Cole and fled in a vehicle, police said.

"This is about as bad as it gets," Cannito said.

According to America’s Most Wanted’s Web site, which cited "investigators," the men who burst into Cole’s east valley home Wednesday morning were looking for the boy’s grandfather, who hasn’t lived at the home since last year.

Cannito declined to confirm that report.

Hatch, who has worked for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children since retiring as a homicide detective with Las Vegas police, said police canvassed the neighborhood Thursday morning.

They stopped cars, went door-to-door and interviewed dozens of people, he said. People of particular interest for information were those who drive regular routes through the neighborhood, such as delivery workers, he said.

He said the viciousness of the attack concerned him.

"These are trusting people," Hatch said of the family. "They said ‘police,’ so they opened the door to see what was going on."

Cannito continued to urge the public for information on Cole’s whereabouts.

Cole is 3 feet 11 inches tall, 48 pounds and has distinctly stained front teeth. He has blond hair and blue eyes.

The boy was last seen wearing a black John Cena WWE wrestling shirt, dark jeans, a belt, black Vans shoes, white socks and a black, zip-up hooded sweat shirt with white, black and blue stars over it.

Review-Journal writer Antonio Planas contributed to this report.

Contact reporter Lawrence Mower at or 702-383-0440.

Homicide detectives investigate woman's death
Las Vegas police were called to Tahiti Village Resort early Wednesday after calls that someone had been shot. Police found a woman’s body between a parking garage and boiler room on the resort's property. A guest first reported hearing gunfire. There are no witnesses, but police will examine surveillance videos and look for clues. The woman was not identified, but a purse was found near the body. She did not appear to be a guest at the resort.
LVMPD Discusses Ross Dress for Less Shooting
LVMPD Assistant Sheriff Charles Hank discussed the 15th officer-involved shooting of the year at a press conference at Metro headquarters on Tuesday, Aug. 14. The active-shooter incident took place at the Ross Dress for Less store at the 4000 block Blue Diamond Road in the south Las Vegas Valley. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Metro Asst. Sheriff Brett Zimmerman on Aug. 8 officer-involved shooting
Metropolitan Police Department Assistant Sheriff Brett Zimmerman met with media Monday to discuss the details of the 14th officer-involved shooting of the year. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Clark County School Board president Deanna Wright on travel expenses
Clark County School Board President Deanna Wright says she followed proper expense protocol in trip to Florida last year.
Matt Kelly Elementary School hosted its third annual Back-to-School Red Carpet Program
Matt Kelly Elementary School hosted its third annual Back-to-School Red Carpet Program where community and business leaders joined to welcome students back with an inspirational welcome. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Shooting leaves 1 dead in southeast valley
A man was found fatally shot in the doorway of a squatter apartment after an argument ended in gunfire on Sunday night. Officers responded about 10:30 p.m. to the Silver Pines apartments and discovered the man in a breezeway in one of the buildings. The wounded man died at the scene, despite the efforts of another person, who tried to administer medical aid. Witnesses saw a man and a woman flee the scene, but were unable to give police a clear description.
North Las Vegas unveils new school crosswalk
North Las Vegas councilman Isaac Barron talks about the new school crosswalk in front of CP Squires Elementary School Monday, August 6, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
LVMPD Briefing on OIS #13
Assistant Sheriff Tim Kelly held a press conference to discuss details of the 13th officer-involved-shoot for the department in 2018. Video shows the moments before the suspect was shot. The shooting, which has been edited out, occurred as the suspect lunged at an officer outside the apartment. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sedan and semitrailer collide in south Las Vegas
An early Wednesday morning crash has left one person in critical condition. A sedan and semitrailer collided around 4 a.m. at the corner of Spencer Street and Serene Avenue. Police do not believe impairment is a factor in the crash. Spencer has been blocked off north of Serene while police continue their investigation.
Cybersecurity Professionals Flock to Las Vegas for Black Hat
Black Hat USA, the largest annual cybersecurity conference, is expecting a record 17,000 attendees during its six-day run at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center this week. One thing attendees have in mind is making sure they don't get hacked while they're there. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Police chase ends with suspects captured in east Las Vegas
An early Tuesday morning chase ended with a car crash in an east Las Vegas neighborhood. Police were pursuing the vehicle, which they say was involved in robberies in Las Vegas and North Las Vegas, when the driver crashed at Owens and Statz Street. A man was taken into custody. A woman was ejected from a vehicle and taken to a hospital with non-life threatening injuries. The intersection at Mojave Road and Owens Avenue was shut down while police officers searched for the suspect and investigated. The intersection will remain closed for most of the morning.
Record number participate in Touro University Nevada White Coat Ceremony
Three hundred sixty-five medical students received their white coats during the Touro University Nevada White Coat Ceremony at the M Resort in Henderson Monday. The ceremony was developed to honor students in osteopathic medicine, physician assistant studies, nursing, occupational therapy and physical therapy as they accept the professional responsibilities inherent in their relationship with patients. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Stop for school buses, urges CCSD
Clark County School District Police Department hold a mock traffic stop at Centennial High School in Las Vegas, Monday, Aug. 6, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Work Begins at Las Vegas Community Healing Garden
Crews moved the wooden Remembrance Wall at the Las Vegas Community Healing Garden on South Casino Center Boulevard Monday. Construction on a permanent wall is set to begin within the week. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @MadelynGReese
Man wounded outside Cottages apartment
Las Vegas police don't have a motive after a man was shot early Monday morning outside a northwest valley apartment. The man's mother called police to say her son had been shot. She called police around 1:15 a.m. Other people were inside the apartment but no one else was injured. Police are still looking for the shooter.
Ride new Interstate 11 segment in one minute
Interstate 11 opens to the public Thursday, providing sweeping views of Lake Mead, art deco-style bridges and a mural illustrating the construction of Hoover Dam. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Miss El Tiempo 2019
Miss Teen El Tiempo and Miss El Tiempo 2019 were crowned at Sam's Town Saturday, August 4, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Las Vegas Woman Raises Awareness for Anxiety and Depression
Cassi Davis was diagnosed with anxiety and depression after the birth of her second child. After seeking help and support, she felt that there wasn't enough for support for those living day in and day out for those with mood disorders. She created the Crush Run, set for Sept. 22, to raise money for the Anxiety and Depression Association of America and bring together a community of people who live with the same conditions she does. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
North Las Vegas marks the opening of Tropical Parkway connector
The City of North Las Vegas, Nevada Department of Transportation and other partners celebrated the opening of the Tropical Parkway connector to Interstate 15 and the Las Vegas Beltway. The stretch of road will make access easier for distribution centers for Amazon, Sephora and other companies moving into an 1,100-acre industrial area rising near the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bighorn sheep with West Temple in background at Zion National Park
A bighorn sheep walks through Zion National Park (National Park Service)
Adult Superstore location closes after 45 years
The Adult Superstore on Main Street has closed its doors for good after 45 years. The shop, which offered a multitude of adult toys, novelty items and movies, opened in 1973. Four other locations remain open. A note on the front door tells customers, “We can’t fully express our sorrow.” Adult Superstore was awarded Best of Las Vegas adult store by the Review-Journal in 2016 and 2017 .
Funeral held for Las Vegas corrections officer
Department of Public Safety Correctional Officer Kyle Eng died July 19 after a fight with an inmate at the Las Vegas Jail. A funeral was held for Eng at Canyon Ridge Christian Church Monday, July 30, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
What Back-To-School Shopping Is Like For a CCSD Parent and Teacher
Laura LeBowsky, a CCSD special education teacher and mother of two, set out to shop for her children's supply lists at her local Walmart and Target. She was looking for deals to try to keep the total under $150, while also allowing Chloe, 8, and Brady, 6, some choice in what they wanted. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal) @MadelynGReese
Businesses struggle to fill food manufacturing jobs
Chelten House is a family-owned food manufacturing company from New Jersey. They created a facility in Vegas five years ago and have struggled to find experienced workers in the area. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
LeBron heckler crosses line, altercation erupts
NBA superstar LeBron James, his wife, Savannah, and daughter Zhuri were at Liberty High School to watch Bronny James in action Wednesday night. But an unruly fan wearing a Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls jersey heckled the newest Los Angeles Laker. The man screamed at event security with LeBron and his family about 150 feet away. The man had to be restrained, triggering a brief altercation with security. James and his family were escorted out a side door along with Bronny's team, the North Coast Blue Chips. Event officials canceled the game between the Blue Chips and Nike Meanstreets.
Las Vegas Oddities Shop in Downtown Las Vegas
Las Vegas Oddities shop owner Vanessa VanAlstyne describes what's for sale in one of the weirder and wackier stores in Downtown Las Vegas. The store opened less than a year ago and carries everything from human bones to "rogue" taxidermy to Victorian death photography. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Trying to Staying Cool in the Las Vegas Heat
Cooling stations like Cambridge Recreation Center's opened across the Las Vegas Valley this week after the National Weather Service issued an excessive heat warning for the area. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
MountainView's nurses protest outside hospital
MountainView Hospital's nurses affiliated with the Nevada chapter of the national Nurses Organizing Committee picketed outside MountainView Hospital Tuesday to urge the hospital to address high turnover rates and understaffing. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Excessive Heat Slams Las Vegas This Week
The National Weather Service issued an excessive heat warning for Tuesday, July 24 through Thursday, July 26 in Las Vegas. People are reminded to limit outdoor activity, drink plenty of water and wear sunscreen. Visit for more heat safety tips. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Burning car in Las Vegas Spaghetti Bowl
Firefighters extinguish a burning car on the Martin Luther King offramp from northbound Interstate 15 in the Spaghetti Bowl in Las Vegas on July 23, 2018.
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like