Imagine receiving a phone call like this: Your spouse and children have been involved in an accident with my brother, who is a fugitive from the law and now is holding your family hostage and is demanding ransom.
That’s just what happened to a St. Charles woman who reported the incident to St. Charles police 12:10 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013.
The woman had just left the house she and her family are building, en route to their home on the 500 block of North 2nd Street, when she received four calls from the same number, all within the span of about 20 minutes beginning at 11:54 a.m.
The caller began by asking her if she had a husband, three children and a black sport utility vehicle, all of which was true. It did not immediately register, however, that she was the one driving the black Cadillac Escalade that day.
The caller then told the woman about the supposed crash and his fugitive brother.
The woman tried to call her husband on his cellphone and became upset when she could not get through.
The caller then told her his brother had taken her family members hostage when the husband saw the fugitive had a gun and “started asking a lot of questions …”
The caller demanded $2,000 and told her to take the money to Walmart, where he would provide her with additional instructions. The police report notes there is a Western Union at the site.
The victim told police she then told the caller should could get get that much cash right away, which irritated the caller.
Her husband finally returned her call and told her he and the kids had arrived safely at their destination, and she contacted police.
According to the report, Tri-Com contacted AT&T to see if the company could trace the phone number and from where the calls were made. AT&T determined the cellphone signal had been pinging off a cellphone tower in Puerto Rico, but it also had activated a tower in Lawrence, MA. It turns out the phone was a pre-paid cellphone, and that the company has experienced numerous reports of similarly threatening calls being made by these phones.
Police told the victim that the case likely is unsolvable, and that even if they were able to determine who made the calls, if the person was out of state, there would be no extradition.
For all the fright it caused, making a threatening phone call is a Class A misdemeanor, the report states.
Ransom phone scams have been around awhile. Google the term and you’ll get a half-million results in less than half a second, including at least one listing stating the practice has been extended to social media.