EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

August 16, 2013

Man loses cash in bogus kidnap scam

By Jill Harmacinski

---- — METHUEN — A local man told police he lost $1,000 after receiving a demanding cell phone call from two men who said they had kidnapped his injured father and wouldn’t bring him to a local hospital unless he wired them cash.

However, Carlos Castillo’s father was fine and attending a local church during the entire ordeal Sunday afternoon.

Castillo, 33, of Methuen, ended up wiring $1,000 cash in two $500 payments after receiving the cell phone call at 1:45 p.m.

Two different men who spoke to him during the call, which came from a New Jersey cell phone number, said his 63-year-old father had been in a car accident. The men, who had Puerto Rican accents, refused to bring his dad to the emergency room unless they were wired $1,500 cash, he said.

“They told me to stay calm and not to do anything stupid,” Castillo said.

At their suggestion, Castillo went to an ATM and withdrew $500 — all the money he had in savings. He then wired the money to the men, as they instructed. “They gave me a name and all the instructions to the fill out the paperwork to send the money,” he said.

Claiming to be driving a black SUV with tinted windows, they callers said they would meet Castillo at Lawrence General Hospital emergency room. But then they claimed his father tried to escape from them — so they asked for $1,000 more.

“I told them that I took all the money I had out of the bank,” Castillo said. “They told me to go to my house, get your TV, pawn your car.”

Castillo went to a family member who gave him $500, which he again wired as instructed by the callers. After the second payment went through, the callers hung up. Castillo soon learned from a cousin that his father was physically fine and safe.

“It was all made up. They told me my dad was in danger. But he was at church and then he was at home,” Castillo said.

After learning his dad was OK, Castillo said he felt stupid and duped but that he honestly feared for his father’s well being. He repeatedly asked to speak to his father but was told he could not talk to him until the money was paid.

“Nobody was in danger. It was just a scam over the phone,” said Castillo.

Castillo said he reported the incident to Methuen police on Sunday afternoon.

Since the ordeal, he’s spoken to others locally who received similar cell phone calls. “A co-worker said they called his wife and said they had him. But he was sitting right next to her,” Castillo said.

Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter under the screenname EagleTribJill.