Nassau County residents were among the dozens of New Yorkers who were victimized in recent months by a telephone extortion ring, officials said Tuesday in announcing the arrests of the ringleader and two others.
The ring extorted money by telling people that their relatives would be injured or shot if a payment was not made, the state attorney general’s office said.
For example, a member of the ring would telephone a victim, and tell them a relative had been in a car accident and did not have money to pay medical bills, the attorney general’s office said.
In other cases, the victim was simply told a relative had been kidnapped, the attorney general’s office said.
A ring member sometimes claimed to be a drug dealer or a gang member “to further instill fear and compliance with his demands,” the attorney general’s office said in a news release.
Alleged ringleader Giovani Ayala-Rodriguez, 27, of Puerto Rico, and alleged co-conspirators Orlando Gonzalez-Rivera, 26, and Eligio Jiminez-Correa, 40, both of Syracuse, have been charged with grand larceny and related crimes, the attorney general’s office said.
“As we allege, the defendants engaged in this shameful scheme to terrorize and rob New Yorkers,” Attorney General Barbara Underwood said in a news release.
The news release said more than 55 people were victimized statewide and there were “multiple” victims in Nassau County.
No dollar figure was given for the total amount of ransom paid, but the indictment, handed down in Onondaga County, cited payments of $500 to $990.
The most serious charges carry a penalty of up to 20 years in prison, the news release said.
The attorney general said targets of such a scam should understand “that this type of extortion scam depends on fear” and the scammer tries to work quickly to avoid detection.
Officials advised people to never give out personal information to a stranger, never wire money to a stranger, and don’t buy gift or money cards “for the purpose of providing the gift card numbers to someone else.”
The investigation into the scam is ongoing, and anyone who may have been a victim should call State Police at 800-448-3847.