BASTROP COUNTY, Texas — Editor's note: The related video was published in May 2019.
The Bastrop County Sheriff's Office is sending a warning to the public about phone extortion scams after making an arrest in a robbery case.
"Occasionally, the sheriff’s office investigates a case that is especially gratifying," Sheriff Maurice Cook said. "I’m sure all of us have received threatening phone calls; the threat may be for arrest from someone saying they are the IRS, a plea by someone saying a loved one has been arrested, be threatened with deportation, or any other of the various scams. All have a common pattern: the caller is demanding that you send cash to some address, or that you place money on a prepaid card, or have cash that someone will come by and pick up."
On Wednesday, the sheriff's office said this case began when it received a call from a victim who said the alleged extortionist was threatening to have her deported if she didn't pay up. The victim, who is from another country, was attending college in Arizona.
After being threatened with deportation, Sheriff Cook said the victim complied and sent $32,000 in cash via FedEx to a pickup location in Bastrop County. After reflecting on her decision, she decided to call the authorities and learned she had been scammed. She then tracked the package and learned it was due for delivery in about 15 minutes.
The victim called the Bastrop County Sheriff's Office, which then sent a nearby unit to the store where the package was set to be delivered. The victim's package and $32,000 was recovered, and officials learned another delivery was awaiting pickup by the same person.
Officials then set up surveillance at the store and, a short time later, a woman was arrested when she showed up to claim the packages with a fake, out-of-state driver's license.
According to Sheriff Cook, the second package contained $18,000 in cash and was mailed from California. When the 88-year-old sender was contacted, she said she was contacted by a Department of Justice lawyer who threatened to cancel her Social Security number if she failed to comply with sending the money. She said she was also threatened with being arrested for money laundering and other crimes.
The suspect was identified as Myisha Carter, 31, of Houston. She was booked into the Bastrop County Jail and charged with two counts of robbery, since there was a threat conveyed during the course of the theft. Her bond was set at $1.5 million. Carter was also on pre-trial diversion on a federal charge out of Houston regarding a similar theft scheme.
Sheriff Cook said a search warrant was executed on the suspect's vehicle, which yielded about $100,000 in cash stashed under the front seat of her vehicle.
"A lot of the victims are elderly with diminished capacity or those not familiar with our system of government," said Sheriff Cook. "Some of the victims come from foreign countries where they become accustomed to having corrupt officials, so the scam is not too unreasonable for them. For whatever reason, the victims comply and the extortionists leave very few viable leads. The clues often lead to some foreign county and then disappear, or the phone number proves to be a non-legitimate number. The local participants use phony identification to collect their plunder and rapidly move out of the area to a more urban area to blend with the masses."
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