A Mexican man has been charged with running a scheme in which he allegedly called people pretending to have kidnapped a loved one and demanded money.
According to the indictment, Ismael Brito Ramirez, 38, called victims in Texas, California and Idaho from Mexico and claimed to have kidnapped their child or other family member.
Among his nearly 40 victims were residents of Los Angeles and Beverly Hills, authorities said.
To stop his victims from calling the police, Ramirez allegedly threatened to hurt the "kidnapped" loved one if the victim hung up or failed to go along with his demands.
He then allegedly instructed them to wire money to people in Mexico, and on two occasions told victims to make money drops at specific locations in Houston.
The victims in those two incidents were told their daughters had been kidnapped because they had witnessed a crime and that if the victims didn't comply, their daughters' fingers would be cut off.
All together, the victims paid about $28,000, the indictment said.
Ramirez was charged Wednesday with 13 counts, including conspiracy to commit extortion, interstate transmission of extortionate communications, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy to launder money.
He could serve up to 20 years in prison if convicted. He is currently incarcerated in Mexico on unrelated charges, authorities said.
LA, Beverly Hills residents among victims of virtual kidnapping scam
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