I am writing this letter to the citizens of South Pasadena in the hope that this information may spare someone else the extreme terror I experienced as the victim of a malicious scam and attempted extortion, right in our beloved home town.
On the day before Thanksgiving, I was driving near my home in South Pasadena when my cell phone rang in the car. When I accepted the call in my car, I heard a young woman’s voice screaming “mom, they have me. I have been abducted. Help.” This was followed by the background sound of struggling and cries fading away. Immediately, a heavily accented male voice started shouting at me that he had my daughter, who “was at the wrong place at the wrong time,” and if I ever wanted to see her again I would “shut up and follow instructions.”
The caller’s voice was loud, cruel, insulting and threatening. The caller first asked if I was alone. When I said yes, he taunted me, asking how much money my daughter’s life was worth and how much I could get out of the bank. When I demanded to speak to my daughter, he told me to “shut up,
b***!.” This was very REAL at the time, absolutely terrifying, my worst nightmare.
The caller said that if I hung up the phone or told anyone else, my daughter would immediately die. The barrage of violent threats of mutilation and death continued along with foul language and insults. I had parked my car for fear of crashing into something I was so distraught and shaken. As I parked and turned off the engine, the screen of my cell phone on the seat next to me lit up and showed the caller ID was a phone number in Mexico. That was the moment I decided to drive to the police department instead of to the bank, all the while feeling very, very sick with fear that I may have sealed my daughter’s fate.
The caller told me to drive to the bank for further instructions and that I was to refer to him as “son” and he would call me “mom.” The caller asked me where I was and I said I was driving. When I got to the SPPD, I ran in and signaled an emergency, but the minute the caller heard other voices, he said “your daughter is dead you stupid
f****** b***” and hung up.
The police responded calmly and quickly to try to reach my daughter, but the call went to her voicemail. They also were trying to identify her whereabouts through the cell phone carrier and notifying local law enforcement and her home security company. I was absolutely hysterical, but I texted my daughter “emergency,” and to my incredible relief, she immediately called back from her home. I can never describe my devastation from the trauma which still lingers with me as a result of this horrible ordeal, not to mention the shock and anxiety of my daughter, followed almost instantly by anger.
Throughout, South Pasadena Police officer Solinsky stayed with me and was efficient and reassuring. He, along with Officer Lorenzana, explained that this kind of cruel scam goes on all the time, playing upon people’s deepest emotions and fears. Unfortunately, the police usually hear about it after the victim has already wired money to a foreign country where the predators are located, primarily Russia, India and Mexico. There is no way to trace the money or the phone call.
Perhaps I am naïve, but I had no idea that this type of organized criminal enterprise even existed, let alone that it was so common, which is why I am writing this letter. I do want to thank the SPPD for their rapid response, help and support. We read in the newspaper about burglaries and car thefts. It would make sense that this type of insidious, invisible crime also be reported as a preventative measure. There is no privacy, and no one is immune.
(South Pasadena Resident) Name & contact info removed for security reasons