SANTA ANA A 31-year-old man was behind bars this week on suspicion of faking his own kidnapping and trying to extort $300 from his mother, Santa Ana police said.
On Wednesday, April 19 he pleaded not guilty.
Robert Nunez’s mother contacted police on Sunday, April 16, when she had not heard from her son for a few days, Santa Ana police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna said.
A missing-person report was filed. Nunez struggled with drug issues, and his mother tried to help him, Bertagna said. “(His mother) took care of him when he was homeless.”
The mother returned to police after getting messages saying Nunez would be killed if she didn’t pay a ransom. She also received a photo showing weapons, including a saw, that supposedly would be used to torture him.
Investigators dropped other cases to try to rescue Nunez, who they believed was in danger of being killed, Bertagna said.
On Monday, authorities tracked Nunez to Anaheim, where they found him and another man in a car. The men were questioned and it was determined that Nunez was responsible for the texts to his mother and for concocting the hostage plan, Bertagna said. The other man was not involved.
Nunez, who police say had lived in Santa Ana but was often homeless, was arrested on suspicion of attempted extortion.
This type of crime has become a growing trend across the nation, Bertagna said, and this was the third fake-hostage case this month in Santa Ana alone. The other two involved juveniles.
Aside from distressing families, such cases take a toll on investigators.
“The homicide unit had to stop their three open (homicide cases) to help this guy from supposedly being murdered,” Bertagna said. “They take away resources that are needed to address real problems.”