Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Just When You Think You've Heard It All...**(Amended)

Not your typical day with the Costa Mesa Police Department!  This story is a strange one, to say the very least.  Tuesday around 9:00 a.m. CMPD Traffic Investigator Darren Wood had a very strange encounter with a citizen.  Rather than try to paraphrase the event, here's the full text of the incident report from the CMPD:

Yesterday morning, a Costa Mesa police officer uncovered an extortion scheme after being flagged down by a female motorist.

Yesterday morning just before 9:00 a.m., Traffic Investigator Darren Wood was driving a marked patrol car near Harbor Blvd and Hamilton Street after completing morning follow up work on several cases he was investigating.  While in traffic, he noticed the female driver of a nearby car honk her horn and wave at him in an apparent attempt to get his attention.  Investigator Wood stopped to speak with the female driver who was crying and visibly distraught.  The female driver was speaking via her car’s Bluetooth system with an unknown male caller who claimed he had abducted the female’s sister who he claimed had just been injured in a serious car accident.

Investigator Wood solicited assistance from nearby patrol Officers Novikoff and Alegado to carefully facilitate communicating with the driver, as she appeared fearful of terminating the phone conversation with the male caller.  During lulls in the phone conversation, officers passed written notes to the female driver who confirmed the male caller was threatening to harm her sister if she did not complete an immediate wire transfer to the caller through a nearby Western Union office.

Further complicating matters, officers were unable to immediately make phone contact with the female driver’s sister, who was supposed to be in class at a nearby community college.  After police were able to eventually confirm through campus security that the female driver’s sister was unharmed and attending class, they focused their efforts on locating and apprehending the extortion suspect.  Costa Mesa Police detectives responded into the field and worked to isolate the suspect caller’s cell phone location, while appearing to follow his instructions to initiate “wiring” a money transfer at a nearby Western Union in the city.  Upon confirming the suspect was calling from Puerto Rico, officers terminated the field investigation.

Detectives learned the victim motorist had initially received the cell phone call from the male suspect who later inquired if the victim had a sister.  The suspect’s cell phone showed, on the victim’s phone, to be located in Massachusetts.  Upon learning the victim had a sister, the suspect caller immediately asserted to the victim that her sister had been injured in a serious car accident.  The suspect caller went on to demand that the victim not contact police, to remain on the line and to comply with demands for completing an immediate money wire-transfer or face having her sister harmed by a gang member working with the suspect caller. 

The public should be aware that these types of scenarios represent a common extortion scheme involving cell phone “spoofing.”  “Spoofing” is successfully accomplished when a suspect phones a victim and – through use of an application – enables the call received by the victim to falsely show originating from a location other than the caller’s true location.  The suspect, in some instances, is able to “spoof” the call, falsely showing a phone number familiar to the victim.  In this case, the suspect remotely attempted an extortion scheme on the female motorist using cell phone and money transfer technology.

Other schemes involve suspects phoning and contacting victims, impersonating a family member or friend in need of “immediate assistance” in another country.  After verbally disclosing limited identifying information about a family member known by the victim, the suspect caller then insists on arranging for the victim to wire-transfer funds to assist with unexpected air fare or required bail to assist the family member known by the victim.  In most cases, the suspect caller was able to previously obtain personal (identifying) information, about the purported family member needing help, via social media sites used by the victim.

Costa Mesa Police detectives are completing appropriate follow up regarding this case.  Anyone with information regarding this incident, or similar incidents, are encouraged to contact the Costa Mesa Police Detective Bureau at 714.754.5205.

Just a little more information for you.  Those two officers who helped out with this situation are freshly-minted CMPD officers Ryan Novikoff and Arnold Alegado, seen here as the second and third men in this photo at their swearing-in ceremony in January of this year.

So, another excellent bit of police work by the folks at the CMPD.  More reasons to be proud of them every day. 

CBS' Stacey Butler interviews the victim of this event, HERE.  Worth a watch.  CMPD Lt. Greg Scott gets a quick cameo, too.



Anonymous Where's My Coffee said...

Well they certainly got their feet wet in a hurry.

What a sad and horrible thing to do to someone. I hope this man is caught somehow.

10/31/2013 06:07:00 AM  
Anonymous Squad 51 said...

Now there's a threating bunch of union thugs! It's no wonder the mayor and his sidekick need to sue for stinkeye protection!!

10/31/2013 08:10:00 AM  

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