TRUE CRIME : Pay Up Or…….

On May 9, 2010, Leighton Gage wrote this piece for Murder Is Everywhere.  Crime fiction is entertaining because most fans of the genre have not been victims of crimes or, at least, those types of crimes that involve life threatening circumstances.  Authors often build their stories on the experiences of people who are not so fortunate

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Pay Up, or We’ll Kill Her!

It starts with a call, generally on your mobile (cell) phone. The first voice you hear is that of a woman (or girl, it’s hard to tell, because she’s crying so much). Her first words are “Mom. Mom,” (Or, if a male answers, “Dad, Dad,) they’ve kidnapped me!” And then the phone is snatched from her hand.
A male comes on the line. He threatens to kill your daughter. He wants money. The amount varies, but it’s more than you’re likely to have in cash. He’s aggressive. He threatens. He finally agrees to take part-payment in jewelry, watches, computers, anything else readily negotiable. But he wants it immediately. He warns you not to hang up. He tells you to keep you talking, wants to make sure you’re not trying to call the police, wants to keep you on the ‘phone throughout the entire process. He sets a place to meet you. You’re warned to come alone. He may ask you to hold the telephone outside the car window, so he can hear the wind, proof you’re on your way. When you get there, they’re waiting.
When they’re sure you’re alone, they move in, take what you’ve agreed to bring, steal everything else. And, only later, you discover your daughter was never kidnapped at all.
It’s called a falso sequestro, a fraudulent kidnapping, and here inBrazil, they’ve reached endemic proportions. Personally, we know four people who’ve been victimized. One of them was a neighbor, an aged lady who suffered a heart attack as a result, one a close friend, one a cousin, one a sister of my wife’s. Almost everyone you talk to inBrazil has at least one story, even José de Alencar, the vice-president of the republic.
 Read, here, about his experience:
Can you imagine something like that happening to Joe Biden? No, neither can I.
It’s not as if people in this country don’t know that falsos sequestros are all the rage.
At least once a week there’s an article in one of the newspapers, or an account on the radio, or on television. The scam has even been tried on a number of radio personalities who’ve been called at a moment when they were on the air. They broadcast them. They recorded them. And you can listen to two examples here:
Again, these are not staged, They’re real attempts at extortion. I know most of you aren’t going to understand the Portuguese, but I think the sheer desperation of the “victim” and the cold-bloodedness of the “kidnapper” come through even without knowledge of the language.
If you elect to listen, you’ll have to sit through a bit of backstory, an explanation of what happened from the radio professionals. But be patient and you’ll hear a crime actually being committed.
With all the publicity falsos sequestros are getting, the indices of people who fall for the scam must be dropping all the time. But it still works. It works because of the cold-blooded, psychological pressure these criminals are able to exert. It doesn’t matter that law-enforcement authorities keep saying that real professionals don’t act that way. It doesn’t even matter if you think you’re being scammed – because what if you’re not?
Do you want to take the chance? Tell the caller to go to Hell? Hang up the ‘phone?
Most people don’t.
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