A bogus kidnapping ring based in California allegedly defrauded at least one Minnesota woman after she was told that her husband had been smuggled into the United States and was told to wire $2,000 for his release, according to court documents unsealed last week.
Four people were indicted and three were arrested in San Diego last week. The charges against Ruth Graciela Raygoza, Maria Del Carmen Pulido Contreras, Adrian Jovan Rocha and Jonathan Rocha says they falsely reported that they were holding a family member and demanded money for the safe release of their relative.
The group received at least five money transfers from people living in Maryland, Virginia and Minnesota.
The Minnesota woman, identified only as E.D. in the complaint, was contacted in August 2012 and told her husband “had been smuggled into the United States.” She was instructed to wire $2,000 to Adrian Rocha.
According to the complaint, Rocha picked up the transfer in the San Diego area and then “traveled to a location near the border in San Ysidro, California and handed money to a conspirator who delivered the money to another conspirator in Mexico.”
The Associated Press reported that scammers mostly targeted immigrants, and dialed random phone numbers to reach them.
"They would just randomly run through a sequence of numbers, like 1 to 100," Daniel Page, assistant special agent in charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs and Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations unit in San Diego told the Associated Press. "They're just like your professional telemarketer. They have a script. 'You need to pay this money. If you don't, something's going to happen.'"