4 plead guilty in San Diego for shakedown scheme that involved phony kidnap claims


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SAN DIEGO — Four people have pleaded guilty to running a scheme that collected ransoms from 128 families across the United States by falsely claiming their loved ones had been kidnapped.

Ruth Raygoza of Chula Vista, California, Maria Contreras of Los Angeles and Adrian and Jonathan Rocha of Tijuana, Mexico, entered pleas Tuesday in federal court in San Diego. They were charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to launder money.

They targeted mainly Spanish-speaking non-U.S. citizens.

Authorities say co-conspirators of the four would call families, falsely claim to be holding captives and demand thousands of dollars for their release.

The money was wired to Southern California and sent on to Mexico.

Authorities say the ring collected nearly $200,000.

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