WESTON (CBSMiami) – The eight abduction scam cases revealed in Weston this week have shined a light on a persistent criminal scheme that is difficult to stop, national in scope and painfully emotional for victims.
For the first time, CBS4 News can take you inside one of these scams.
A law enforcement source, who is not connected to the cases in Weston, provided CBS4 News a copy of an audio recording of one of these scams from a few years ago.
On the call, a woman is told that her brother has been kidnapped somewhere in South Florida and the kidnappers are demanding money. From the outset, the kidnappers are applying the pressure.
“If you don’t make your move in the next 30 minutes, it’s over for him and I feel sorry for him because he looks like he’s a good boy,” the man on the phone tells her.
This case happened a few years ago and is not connected to the recent cases in Weston. The kidnapper lets the woman speak to the person she believes is her brother but the kidnapper tell her he’s unable to talk.
“The guy can’t talk,” the man tells her. “He got his jaw broken. My cousin put something on his mouth because he was screaming a lot.”
The woman hears a man’s voice – the man she believes is her brother – whimpering and crying.
“Are you OK?” she asks him, her voice wavering. “I’m coming. I’m gonna take care of it.”
The woman is only allowed to speak to the man she believes is her brother for a few seconds. Then, she continues dealing with the demands of the supposed kidnapper, who tells the woman to wire the money through Western Union. He also tells her she and her brother are fortunate.
“You should say thank you to me and he’s lucky as hell that I was here because if I would not be here, he would’ve been died a long time ago,” the man says. “Trust me.”
The whole thing, like the scams involving the Cypress Bay students and other Weston residents, was fake.
After listening to this audio recording, it’s clear why these scammers are so effective – they don’t give their victims a moment to think. They keep them off balance and they make them believe that their loved one is in imminent danger of being killed. They also keep them on the phone thereby preventing them from checking on their loved one’s whereabouts or from calling police.
“I don’t want no mistakes,” the man on the phone told the woman. “Every move you’re gonna make you’re gonna do it with me on the line. I don’t know what you’re gonna do over there. I don’t trust nobody. Once you hang up the phone, once we lose contact, it’s over for him.”
And the threats kept coming.
“Listen, I’m not stupid,” the man told her. “Don’t try to play games with me. What are you trying to do? You’re trying to get time and set me up?”
The woman reassures him that she’s serious about getting the money and finding a place to make the transaction.
“All I want to do is get him so we need to trust each other,” she tells him. “The only thing I want is him and the only thing you want is the money. So, that’s it. We have a deal here.”
The man warns her that if she makes a mistake, her brother will likely be killed.
“I give you my honest word and my man’s word that there’s nothing else going to happen to him as long as you don’t make a mistake,” he said.
Like the cases in Weston, a law enforcement source said this case emanated in Puerto Rico. No one was charged in the crime.
And that’s one of the challenges for police – tracing the calls, which often come from spoof numbers, and finding the suspects.
Also like in the Weston cases, police were able to verify that the young man was safe.
There are some things you can do to protect yourself from this type of situation, investigators say. You can add phone tracking software to your smartphone and the smartphones of your family members so you can instantly see where they are at all times.
People who encounter these types of calls are reminded to remain calm, ask a friend or family member to try and reach the person supposedly being held and call 911.