Gwinnett teen hid for days after family receives chilling calls in ‘elaborate’ kidnapping scheme

Gwinnett County Police are warning people about an elaborate kidnapping scam that sent an 18-year-old girl into hiding for days while her family faced vicious threats from people claiming to have kidnapped her.

On Feb. 21, the 18-year-old received a phone call from someone claiming to be with the Mexican government.

He told her that her phone had been used to make threats toward Mexican officials and that she needed to go into hiding for her safety and her family’s safety, Gwinnett police told Channel 2 Gwinnett County Bureau Chief Matt Johnson.

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From there, the same callers, according to police, were able to track down the teen’s father and demand money from him while pretending to have kidnapped the same teen.

“Do you want me to send you a video where I am cutting your niece’s body into pieces?” a man’s voice is heard on one of the recordings of the calls provided by the family. “I want $15,000, so I don’t kill her.”

Because no one from the teen’s family could find her, they believed the callers and feared for her safety.

“They asked us for $15,000, and if we didn’t pay they would kill her,” Yajaira Govea, the aunt of the teen originally targeted, said in Spanish.

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The family notified Gwinnett County Police and reported her missing. Meanwhile, the family paid more than $400 to the fake kidnappers in an effort to bring her back home.

The fake kidnappers took even more steps to trick the family into believing their loved one was in danger.

“She was instructed to give her app login information, she was also convinced to send a photo of herself looking sad, and she was also instructed to put her phone on airplane mode so she couldn’t be tracked,” Sgt. Michele Pihera with Gwinnett County Police told Channel 2 Action News.

A missing person report was filed and police began working to find her behind the scenes.

“They sent me some photos and some voice messages on WhatsApp that said very bad things,” said Govea in Spanish. “And they told us that if we didn’t pay the money they were asking for her they were going to come and kill all of us who were in the apartment.”

On Feb. 23, an undercover Gwinnett Police officer found the teen walking on Sweetwater Road. She told police she was in hiding but needed to charge her phone. She was reunited with family who were able to realize that no kidnapping had occurred.

Police say the public should keep their guard up when receiving threats and demands for money over the phone as scams become more elaborate.

“We encourage you to hang up on that person and verify the facts immediately,” Pihera said.

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