October 18, 2021

Kidnap ransom scam bilks $1,800 from Riverside restaurant employee

RIVERSIDE - Riverside police are investigating a kidnap ransom scam in which an employee of a restaturant in the village was bilked of $1,800.

The employee said she received a phone call from Mexico on Nov. 30. During the phone call, an individual, who said his name was Ricardo Jiminez, said that the owner of the restaurant, a female who only spoke Spanish, had been kidnapped and the caller demanded $1,800 for her release, police said.

The employee of the business, a 37-year-old Chicago resident, initially believed this was a kidnapping scam because they quite common in Mexico and in parts of the United States, she told police. The offender told her to go through an app called Remitly and send $1,800. When she tried this, the transaction would not go through, she told police.

Then the offender told the victim to go to the Western Union website and tried to walk her through instructions for online transactions. But, these instructions were in English, and the victim speaks only Spanish, so this transaction did not go through, police said.

The offender then the victim to go to a Western Union currency exchange in the 4300 block of West 26th Street in Chicago. This transaction was successful, and $1,800 in cash was sent to a location in Jalisco, Mexico.

After the transaction occurred, the owner of the business returned and the restaurant employee realized she was the victim of a scam. She and thw restaurant owner attempted to cancel the transaction, but it was too late, according to police.

The employee and the owner of the business are professional acquaintances only and have no type of personal contact outside of work. They do not have any friends or acquaintances in common, and they had no idea how the offender got their information to target them for this scam, police said.

Police were able to trace some phone numbers and text messages, but they all returned to original locations in Mexico. The restaurant owner, 51, is a Cicero resident.

This kidnapping scam is just that,” Riverside Police Chief Weitzel said in a statement. “These two females were targeted because they have a Riverside business, were non-English speaking, and have family members that originate from a country where kidnappings are prevalent and ransoms for kidnapping are widespread.

“ You can understand why the victim believed this was possible. I encourage anyone who receives a phone call that their loved ones are being held as ransom or need bond money for an incident, should immediately contact police to see if it's valid. Riverside Police will take this investigation as far as we can go, considering some leads go back to Mexico, but our information will then be turned over to federal authorities for follow up.”