Houston 'Virtual Kidnapper' Gets Prison Time

Barbara Schwarz
September 21, 2018 - 9:36 am

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HOUSTON (KRLD) - A Texas judge says a Houston woman had a "gleeful disregard" for her victims. 

35-year-old Yanette Rodriguez Acosta was sentenced to 88 months in prison in a virtual kidnapping scheme. She and co-conspirators in Mexico called victims in Texas, California, Idaho and told them they had their children. The victims, who heard a gasping voice call for "mom" or "dad" on the phone, often responded with their child's name, unaware that they were giving the caller information. They demanded ransom and threatened to harm, murder or rape the children if the victim hung up the phone.

Many parents stayed on the Speakerphone for hours while driving to banks and to various Western Union and MoneyGram locations. In some cases, victims were instructed to make cash drops at specified locations in Houston. Matthew Orwig, former US attorney for the Eastern District of Texas says "people are so appropriately emotional about their children, they don't rationalize as well.  It's making them immediately vulnerable."

He says Acosta faced some serious charges, but none as bad as "terrorizing people, making them believe their child is in danger."

Orwig says it may be difficult to catch the suspects in Mexico but says the government will work with the Mexican government.

He adds they don't know if there are other cases. "Most people in frauds like this don't report those crimes. They work through them and are embarrassed by them. There's probably a higher percentage in virtual kidnapping."