Officials said Thursday that federal prosecutors accused a man imprisoned in Mexico of committing a “virtual kidnapping” scam that gave thousands of dollars in ransom to at least 30 Americans.
Julio Manuel Reyens Zuniga, 48, arrived in the US on Wednesday after being extradited by Mexico, where he had been jailed since 1996 on two murder charges.
Reyes Zuniga, a distinguished member of the Rancho San Pedro Street Gang, is accused of a scandal from 2015 to 2018 while he was lodged in the Santa Martha Acitla Jail in Mexico City.
Federal prosecutors say he and his associates pulled it over using smuggled cellphones in the jail.
Reyes Zuniga and his colleagues called their victims and said they had abducted a loved one and planned to harm the person until the ransom was paid, according to court documents.
Reyes Zuniga and others, according to a 31-count indictment, will demand ransom payments in the form of wire transfers, cashing in places or purchasing electronics such as iPads or iPhones.
Court papers state that once the money was sent, individuals in Mexico provided income to Reyes Zuniga, who was imprisoned.
The victims mostly lived in Southern California – including the Los Angeles, Orange and Santa Barbara counties, the indictment states.
René Zuniga, who is run by Muneko, faces one count of conspiracy to extort, 27 counts of extortion, two counts of foreign communication of threats with intent to extort money, and one count of conspiracy to rob monetary instruments. Is charged.
Reyes Zuniga was expected to make his first appearance in federal court on Thursday afternoon. It was not immediately clear whether he hired a lawyer or he was provided by the federal public defenders office.