Springfield residents charged with Boston-area phone extortion

The pair were running one of those scams in which somebody gets a call that a loved one is going to be beaten for involvement in a car crash unless some money is immediately wired via Western Union, the Suffolk County District Attorney's office reports.

Jose Carrasquillo, 32, and Jennifer Rodriguez, 30, were arraigned on Jan. 17 in Chelsea District Court on charges of extortion by threat of bodily injury, the DA's office says, adding bail was set at $5,000 each.

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.

Police in surrounding communities, including Boston, Brookline and Cambridge are now investigating whether the pair were involved in similar extortion attempts there, the DA's office says.

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.

Innocent, etc.

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    Comments

    I received a call like this...

    By on

    On November 17, from a 508 area code phone number. Heavily accented Spanish caller--similar script to the above. I hung up on the guy, since it seemed so sketchy and implausible. I called my Dad first and, after determining that he was just fine, I called 911. The dispatcher was not interested and did not take my report. She said it happened all the time, and that the call was untraceable (disposable cell phone).

    Happy someone is following up on this, and I hope they send these two away--it's a scary call to get. I've got these calls all still logged on my phone--are the police looking for any more "witnesses"?

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    The dispatcher was wrong...

    By on

    You should file a complaint against the dispatcher who took your call. There should be a record of it as well as an audio recording. No matter what, the dispatcher should have taken a report along with your contact information.

    I have worked in incident response in the Coast Guard for 13 years. We are trained to always take an initial report no matter what the circumstances. If we can't do anything directly, then we will do everything within our authority to find someone who can.

    Seriously, follow up on this. If one of my people acted dismissive like that dispatcher did, they'd most likely be earning at a lesser pay grade.

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    Glad to hear you didn't lose

    By on

    Glad to hear you didn't lose any money to this scam. Police are investigating similar calls in several cities and towns, though as you can imagine they're prioritizing cases in which victims actually sent money. If you'd like to share the number that contacted you, you can provide it to the Revere PD Criminal Investigation Division at (781) 286-8340 or your local police department.

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    Agree that dispatcher is wrong

    By on

    It's not the dispatcher's place to decide whether this warrants a police report. The police also won't know the frequency of this happening if people call to report it and it never makes it to them.

    I wonder what other crimes this dispatcher thought was not worth the time to report.

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    So glad that you didn't fall

    So glad that you didn't fall for that scam. There was an scam going around in the past couple of years where grandparents were getting calls about their grandkids supposedly being in a jam (accident, car trouble, etc.) and telling the grandparents to wire money to such-and-such a place. What was scary was that these scammers must have had to do some pretty basic research on families to figure out the grandparent/child connection. The grandparents of a friend of mine unfortunately fell for this.

    I remember years ago that we were occasionally getting these collect calls (remember those?) where the person on the other end of the line slurred the name so you couldn't understand it. It was strange. Fortunately the first time it happened everyone was home. We didn't accept the call, but then spent a good 15 minutes thinking of and calling everyone we knew who would possibly call us collect to make sure that he/she was OK. Everyone was, and the next time that happened, we just hung up the phone. My dad called the phone company afterwards and they told him that people have made reports of this, and accepting the call meant that some charge showed up on your bill.

    The lesson here is to warn your older loved ones: no one will call you like this on my behalf. And, if for some crazy reason I ever need someone to do this on my behalf, let's agree on a code word to use. Of course, knowing my parents they would forget the code word....

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    It was in Boston...

    By on

    ...thanks for the feedback everyone. I'll call the Revere folks at the number above--

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