The FBI made its first arrest in connection with the virtual kidnapping-for-ransom schemes that have spiked in recent years, as cold-callers target families in wealthy communities, demanding wire payment for an allegedly kidnapped family member. Arrested last week in Houston, Texas, Yanette Rodriguez Acosta (a k a Yanette Patino), 34, is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, eight counts of wire fraud, and one count of conspiracy to launder money.
According to the FBI, “Acosta’s co-conspirators used Mexican telephone numbers and called numerous victims … in Texas, California, and Idaho in an attempt to extort money. They were allegedly told their child had been kidnapped and that they must pay money to secure their safe release. Victims were typically instructed to wire money to … Mexico.”
Such was the case last fall in Santa Barbara, when Audrey Tognotti, vacationing overseas with her mother, got a call that her daughter had been kidnapped; moments later, her husband, Mike Tognotti, back home in Santa Barbara, received a call that Audrey had been kidnapped. The case is ongoing, and the FBI has yet to say whether the Tognottis were among the families targeted by Acosta.