Woman Indicted And Arrested For Extortion
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico –Today, a federal Grand Jury returned a two-count indictment charging Celinés Rivera-Díaz with conspiracy to interfere with commerce by extortion and extortion. Defendant Rivera-Diaz was arrested on December 19, 2018, and is currently detained pending trial.
Pursuant to the Affidavit in support of the criminal Complaint filed on December 21, 2018, on December 19, 2018, an unknown individual (“Suspect One”) contacted over the phone a 62-year-old female (the “Victim”), and informed her that he abducted her adult son. Suspect One told the Victim that her son owed him $4,000, and was not responding. Suspect One demanded that the Victim pay him $4,000 and threatened that, unless she paid that amount, her son would be harmed. More specifically, Suspect One threatened that the Victim’s son “se iba a joder.” The Victim responded that she only had $1,600 in the bank and could only pay $1,000. Suspect One then instructed the Victim that a woman would drive to the Victim’s home, pick up the Victim, and drive the Victim to the bank so the Victim could withdraw the money and pay the ransom. The Victim acquiesced to Suspect One’s demands.
Later that day, a woman, later identified as defendant Celinés Rivera Díaz (“Rivera-Díaz”), drove to Victim One’s house, picked her up and drove her to a Banco Popular de Puerto Rico branch located in Humacao, Puerto Rico. During the drive to the bank, defendant Rivera-Díaz and the Victim maintained telephone communications with Rivera-Díaz’s coconspirators. Upon arriving at the bank, the Victim entered the bank on foot while the defendant remained outside. Once inside the bank, the Victim informed bank employees that she was being extorted. Bank employees called Puerto Rico Police Department (PRPD) agents, who quickly arrived at the scene. PRPD agents later arrested defendant Celinés Rivera-Díaz. Further investigation revealed that the Victim’s son was not abducted.
“We will not stand by as criminals attempt to rip-off our elders by force, violence, and fear. These con-artists who trick victims into sending money before they realize it’s a scam, by playing into their emotions, should know that they will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” stated U.S. Attorney Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez. “The investigation continues as to other coconspirators.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Juan C. Reyes-Ramos is in charge of the prosecution of the case and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) is in charge of the investigation. If convicted the defendant could face up to 20 years of imprisonment on each count. Indictments contain only charges and are not evidence of guilt. Defendants are presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty.
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