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Four sentenced to prison for sham ransom scheme

Four sentenced to prison for sham ransom scheme that targeted Latino families

Four people were sentenced to federal prison Monday after pleading guilty to running an extortion racket that tricked Latino families into paying ransoms to free relatives they were told had been kidnapped.

Ruth Graciela Raygoza, 64, of Chula Vista; Maria Del Carmen Pulido Contreras 43, of Los Angeles; Adrian Jovan Rocha 27, of Tijuana; and Jonathan Rocha 24, of Tijuana were given prison sentences ranging from 14 to 40 months by District Judge Jeffrey Miller.

They had pleaded guilty in July in San Diego federal court to charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to launder money.

Prosecutors said the ring extorted nearly $190,000 from 124 Latino families after calling them and saying their family members had been kidnapped and would be harmed unless ransom was paid.

The victims were mostly immigrants from Mexico and Central America who spoke little English; they were instructed to send money through MoneyGram or Western Union to locations in Southern California.

"This was a cruel hoax that caused significant emotional and financial damage to a large number of people," said U.S. Atty. Laura Duffy.

Twitter: @LATSandiego

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