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.