Extortion scam rattles Saugus dad

The Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station can be reached by calling 661-260-4000.

A Saugus man having coffee with his daughter Tuesday morning said his heart stopped when he got a phone call from a man claiming to have snatched his younger daughter and demanded money for her return.

Scott, who asked that only his first name be used, said the call shook him to his core and he began crying – not because of the man’s threat so much as hearing the screams of a girl pleading for help.

“My business cell phone rings and when I answer I hear my youngest teenage daughter screaming and crying saying ‘Dad, help me, they have me in a van and I’m scared.’ My heart stopped.

“My older daughter could see my face and tell something was wrong,” he said. “Then, a Hispanic man came on the phone and said if I do exactly what he says that may little girl would not be harmed.”

Scott listened, he said, as the caller gave instructions for the transfer of ransom money.

“At this point I was in tears,” he said.

As he listened to the alleged kidnapper, Scott quietly told his other daughter to call her little sister at school.

When he learned his younger daughter was in fact at school and had not been abducted, Scott knew he was the victim of an extortion scam.

The profound grief he endured at the prospect of harm inflicted on his child, turned instantly into rage directed at the extortionist.

“I quietly told my oldest to go pick her younger sister up from school and bring her home,” he said.

“All of this is while this man is asking me where I was and how much I was willing to pay to see my daughter again,” he said.

“It was horrific and seemed so real.”

Scott had become one of the latest victims of an extortion scam which law enforcement officers have been warning the public about since the fall.

“I feel more Santa Clarita families need to know about this,” he said.

Scam warning

Four months ago, detectives with the Los Angeles Police Department Robbery-Homicide Division issued a warning to the public about a recent rash of phone scams involving a threat that a family member is being held hostage, and will not be released until the victim’s family wires money.

“The victims are contacted by a suspect who states they are holding a family member hostage,” they warned.

“The caller then demands money to be wired, or they will kill or hurt the hostage. The suspect advises the victim to go to an ATM to withdraw money, and then send the money via wire services.”

The LAPD said in the news release that the scam phone calls were originating from Mexico.

When deputies of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station responded to Scott’s report of the incident, they told him such calls were common.

“They (deputies) immediately dispatched somebody to our home and informed us that this is quite a common scam,” Scott said. “It’s been a few hours since this happened and I still feel very uneasy and still quite shaken up.

“I was so mad,” he said upon learning of the ruse. “When I told them I was calling the sheriff’s department they said ‘Now you’re going to need the sheriff’s department.

“I was so frightened,” he said.

Threats of retaliation, however, are groundless according to deputies who responded to Scott’s call, given most of the extortion calls, they said, are made from outside of the United States.

“As I look back I could swear the voice I heard was the voice of my youngest daughter pleading for my help,” he said.

“The deputies said they (extortionists) have machinery that plays the girl’s voice,” Scott said.

“I’ve never heard of such a thing and really think that Santa Clarita residents need to know that this can happen and to be in close contact with their children.

“I have since made sure all of our location services on our phones and Facebook are off. This man knew my first and last name and my children’s names which made it so much more real.”

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on Twitter @jamesarthurholt



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