Two Men Arrested In Extortion Letter Scheme
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Two men were arrested for allegedly sending extortion letters to hundreds of residents north of Los Angeles, threatening the recipients with death unless they paid money, authorities said Monday.
Roman Makuch, 27, and Richard Faroni, 26, who moved from the Antelope Valley north of Los Angeles to Las Vegas after the threatening letters were sent, were arrested in Las Vegas, said Deputy Eric Smith of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
The men were arrested during the Thanksgiving weekend and were booked for investigation of felony extortion, said Smith.
Detectives from the sheriff’s department served several search warrants in the Las Vegas area during the weekend, but Smith said he had no details.
At least 265 residents of the Antelope Valley, a desert area 60 miles north of downtown Los Angeles, began receiving the computer-generated letters Nov. 1.
The letters, including personal information on the recipients, demanded amounts ranging from several hundred dollars to $600,000. The scheme generally targeted prominent citizens such as doctors, dentists and lawyers.
Authorities were besieged by telephone calls from recipients in the Mojave Desert communities of Lancaster, Palmdale and Quartz Hill.
The Antelope Valley Press newspaper offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the letters’ author. City Editor Larry Grooms called the threats ″an assault on the entire community.″
″They’re all worded the same. The threat is all the same,″ said sheriff’s Sgt. Bob Welch, who refused to discuss details of the threats.
But Lancaster Mayor Els Groves said some of them included references to ″cutting hearts out.″
Investigators didn’t believe anyone complied with demands that money be delivered to various locations or to people named in the letters, Welch said. They also didn’t believe any attempt was made to carry out the threats.
Smith said the two men had lived in Antelope Valley for three years and moved to Las Vegas after the letters were mailed. The letters bore a Mojave postmark.
Smith said detectives will present evidence to the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office, which will file criminal complaints.