Mexican National Charged in Fake Kidnapping Ransom Extortion Scheme
HOUSTON – A federal grand jury in Houston has returned a 13-count indictment against a Mexican National for allegedly running a fake kidnapping ransom extortion scheme that covered several states and nearly 40 victims, announced U.S. Attorney Ryan J. Patrick.
Ismael Brito Ramirez aka Mike Ramirez, 38, is currently incarcerated in Mexico on unrelated charges.
According to the indictment returned yesterday, Ramirez used Mexican telephone numbers to call numerous victims throughout the United States in Texas, California and Idaho, during which he would falsely represent he had kidnapped a victim’s child. Ramirez then allegedly demanded money for the safe release of the victim’s child. The indictment further alleges that to prevent victims from contacting their loved one or law enforcement, Ramirez threatened to cause bodily harm to the family member or child if the victim disconnected from the line or did not comply with his demands.
“It is important for people to be aware of these types of schemes and report them even if they know they are fake,” said Patrick. “Extortionists count on victims’ fear during the calls and embarrassment afterwards to not notify authorities and it is imperative they do so, whether falling victim or not. If you get a call like this, hang up and contact your loved one and law enforcement immediately.”
The indictment alleges victims were typically instructed to wire money to individuals in Mexico. However, two victims were allegedly directed to make money drops at specified locations in Houston on Sept. 17, 2015, and Sept. 30, 2015, respectively. Both were told their daughters had been kidnapped because they had witnessed a crime, according to the allegations. The victims were also allegedly told that if they failed to comply with the caller’s instructions, their daughters’ fingers would be cut off.
The indictment alleges the victims paid a total of approximately $28,000.
Ramirez is charged with conspiracy to commit extortion, interstate transmission of extortionate communications, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy to launder money. All of the charges carry a possible 20-year-maximum prison term upon conviction.
The FBI - Los Angeles Field Office, IRS - Criminal Investigation conducted the investigation along with police departments in Los Angeles and Beverly Hills, Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office and Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations in Los Angeles. Assistant U.S. Attorney Kate Suh is prosecuting the case.
An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence.
A defendant is presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law.