BOSTON, Jan. 23, 2014—Two Springfield residents have been charged in a scam in which family members are contacted by phone and told that a loved one is being held for ransom, prompting Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel F. Conley to warn the public about similar schemes.
Revere Police detectives on Jan. 16 arrested JOSE O. CARRASQUILLO (D.O.B. 5/1/81) and JENNIFER RODRIGUEZ (D.O.B. 8/1/83) on warrants charging extortion by threat of bodily injury. They were arraigned the next day in Chelsea District Court, where Suffolk prosecutors recommended that they be held on $10,000 cash bail each. Judge D. Dunbar Livingston imposed $5,000 each. Both are expected back in court next month.
Evidence developed during the ongoing investigation suggests that a Revere mother received a phone call from a stranger last month. The male caller stated that the victim’s daughter, who was away at college, had been in a car accident with the caller’s cousin, who was a violent fugitive. The fugitive had a gun to the daughter’s head, the caller said, and would kill her if the victim didn’t do as she was told.
After instructing her not to hang up or contact police, the victim was ordered to send $1,000 through Western Union to Jennifer Rodriguez in Springfield. Because of a $500 limit on her bank card, the victim was forced to drive across town and cash a check while remaining on the phone in order to complete a second $500 wire transfer.
Revere Police detectives were able to identify the two separate locations at which the wire transfers were picked up. They reviewed the surveillance footage from those locations and obtained the identification information that the locations required of people receiving wire transfers. The footage showed Rodriguez, escorted by Carrasquillo, picking up the cash. Revere Police then obtained warrants for their arrests.
“The investigation suggests possible links to similar scams in Boston, Brookline, Cambridge, Everett, and Lynn,” Conley said. “Whether these defendants were acting alone or as part of a larger enterprise, they followed a pattern we’ve seen several times over the past few years. The caller says a family member is hurt, in jail, or being held captive. The caller sometimes has general information such as name, age, and residence that can appear convincing to a panicked relative, but could easily have come from social media websites such as Facebook. Victims have wired tens of thousands of dollars overseas to satisfy these ransoms, only to find that their loved ones have been safe at home the whole time.”
Persons who may have received such a call in the past are asked to call their local police to file a report. Anyone who receives such a call in the future should call 911 immediately.
“If a loved one is in danger, police can help,” Conley said. “In almost every case like this that we’ve seen, the danger is imaginary – but the financial losses are very real and can’t be recovered.”
All defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.