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Sheriff’s officials track down extortion suspect

Fake kidnapper allegedly calls, asks for $20,000 ransom

Posted: January 22, 2009 8:51 p.m.
Updated: January 23, 2009 4:30 a.m.

After less than 24 hours of investigation, local detectives arrested Mexican national Jose Gregorio on suspicion of extortion Wednesday after he allegedly asked the victim for a $20,000 ransom, claiming the victim's brother was being held in Mexico.

"Basically, the victim received a phone call from a suspect who indicated they're holding his brother down in Mexico and implying harm if he didn't pay $20,000 in cash," said Sgt. John Bomben, of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station Community Interaction Team.

The concerned victim walked into the Sheriff's Station Wednesday morning at about 11 a.m.

"During the course of this investigation we were able to catch the (suspect) on the phone while (he was) talking to the victim," Bomben said.

Deputies and the Interaction Team arrested Gregorio, 43, at a bus terminal pay-phone on Valencia Boulevard and McBean Parkway Wednesday evening, he said.

It wasn't until Thursday morning when officials could confirm the victim's brother was safe in Mexico.

"We had to go through the U.S. Embassy to contact the victim's brother, the one being threatened," Bomben said. "We couldn't get through on the phone so we went through the U.S. Consulate, and they used their contacts in Mexico to have someone knock on the doors.

"The family down there didn't realize there was anything going on up here. The brother wasn't being threatened or held by anyone down there. He didn't know there was anything going on in the United States. So this was a guy that wanted to get a few bucks out of (the victim)."

Bomben believes the victim and suspect knew each other through church.

Gregorio is not a legal U.S. resident but was living in Newhall, Bomben said.

Deputies detained another suspect for questioning, he said. The second suspect's situation was not known at presstime.

The Community Interaction Team consists of a sergeant and four deputy sheriffs who use arrest, enforcement and contacts with other agencies to resolve community concerns in the city, according to the Sheriff's Station Web site.


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