WESTON (CBSMiami) – Three times since December, a parent of a child at Cypress Bay High School received a terrifying phone call from a seemingly local number. One mother, who asked to remain anonymous, told us about her experience with the virtual kidnappers who claimed to have her son.
“They said he was in a place he shouldn’t have been and if I don’t do what they say, they’re going to hurt him,” she told CBS 4’s Carey Codd.
The mother said she knew her son was away from Cypress Bay at a sports competition in Miami and she was ready to take out however much money was necessary to ensure his safety.
“Various times he threatened to break my son’s neck or hurt him and he said, ‘If you do what I say he’ll be OK,’” the mother said. “But he wouldn’t let me talk to him.”
Fortunately, that mother was able to contact a nearby police officer and get word that her son was OK. She also verified that the number she received a call from was the same number used in a similar crime just the night before.
Broward Sheriff’s investigators in Weston say this is such a serious situation that they recently published a warning to parents and families in the city’s newsletter.
They also said another kidnapping hoax occurred Tuesday and, overall, they believe the suspects have tried at least five or six times to extort money from Weston families.
The cases are similar — with parents often able to hear someone screaming for help in the background of the phone call. The parents are also told to wire money to an account in Puerto Rico.
In one case from December, investigators wrote in an incident report “the Latin male suspect who was speaking English and Spanish over the phone was yelling at (the victim) stating that he was going to shoot her son and that her son was not safe and that he was being held…”
The victim was told that “(Her son) had just run over his mom and 9-year-old who were in the hospital. The suspect stated that he was a gang member and that he wanted $2,000 cash money to pay the hospital bills.”
Broward Sheriff’s Office Capt. Kevin Butler says parents who get this type of phone call need to keep their composure and try to use another phone to verify their child’s safety or contact a family member or friend to do so right away. He also said to call 911 ASAP.
“We tell people slow down, think it through, ask to speak to your child,” he said.
The parent of the Cypress Bay student agrees.
“Remain calm,” she said. “The person is very menacing and threatening and says, ‘You don’t call anyone.’ He made me stay on speakerphone. He wouldn’t let me get off the phone.”
That’s one of the keys investigators say — the bad guys want to keep you talking to prevent you from trying to verify your child’s safety.
“When they get you on the phone, they don’t let you hang up,” said Butler. “They keep you on the phone because they don’t want you to call the police. They don’t want you to call that family member who they claim to be holding ransom.”
No one has been arrested at this point for these crimes but we’re told that BSO has informed the FBI. The FBI has been warning people nationwide about these crimes since at least 2015.
BSO says it appears that no one sent the suspects any money, and if you do get one of these phone calls, do not send money.