Police: Threat to father used in phone scam

WEST WHITELAND TWP., Pa. - December 4, 2013

"I said, 'Please, it's Christmastime and I need my brother and I'll do whatever I have to do,'" a victim named Jill said.

We are protecting Jill's identity because she is still getting threatening messages.

On Tuesday, she got a call from a man claiming her brother had been in an accident and was now being held hostage.

She was given an address to send a MoneyGram worth $1,000 or her brother would be killed.

"I pleaded with him. I said, 'Please, don't kill my brother.' I said, 'he just became a father,'" Jill said.

While negotiating with the caller on her phone Jill was able to contact her mother by text on another phone.

Her mother checked and her brother was okay.

She told Jill to hang up on the caller.

"And I said, 'Mom, are you sure he's okay, because if something happens to my brother, I'll never forgive myself for the rest of my life. She said 'he's fine.' So I hung up the phone and this man called me back 23 times," Jill said.

Police believe it was the same man who called a woman in Exton on Monday claiming her father had been in an accident and was being held at gunpoint.

The man allegedly told the victim if she didn't send $900 to repair the damage, her father would be shot.

The caller knew personal details about the victim's father, police say, leading her to believe the call was genuine.

She was told to go to the local Walmart and send $900 to a woman in Puerto Rico via MoneyGram.

That victim wasn't able to contact her father so she did as instructed and went to the Walmart.

"She drove to the Walmart. Went to the MoneyGram. Sent money down to someone in Puerto Rico," Detective Scott Pezik of the West Whiteland Police Department said.

After the money was sent, another man then called the victim, saying he was the original caller's cousin and told her they had released her father.

The woman then called her father and soon realized it was all a hoax.

Police say the extortionist has a heavy Hispanic accent and in the two local cases identified himself as Robert.

It is a terrifying scam that has already been hitting hard in New England and Central Pennsylvania.

Police say it is an extremely cruel new form of extortion.

"I am absolutely terrified. I was trembling. It was hard to drive. It was hard to focus. I was crying at one point," Jill said.

Police here in West Whiteland and elsewhere are comparing notes hoping to zero in on the extortionist.

They believe he's going through a cell phone directory trying dozens of calls a day until he finds a likely victim.

If you have been contacted in this or a similar scam, you are asked to call West Whiteland Police at (610) 363-0200.


The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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