Scammers Demand Money, Threaten Immigration Arrest

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LATHROP -- The San Joaquin County Sheriff's Office is investigating a scam in which victims are threatened with arrest by immigration enforcement agents unless they pay hundreds of dollars.

Rosa Munoz, of Lathrop, says she got a phone call two weeks ago from an unknown woman, saying there was an emergency.

"I asked her to explain to me what's going on and she said, 'I cant explain it to you. Pay attention and take down this number,'" Munoz said.

Munoz, a mother of six, immediately called the number back trying to see if there had been an accident involving her family. Instead, she was was told she owed money to a Florida-based beauty supply company called Mundo de Belleza.

Munoz says she signed up with the company six years ago for a beauty school. Though she never went to any of the classes, she remembers paying in full -- but the caller told her she owed $6,000 and immigration agents were on their way to arrest her.

The woman told her they would be willing to settle for $940, explaining that police would leave Munoz alone if she paid.

"In that moment I said, 'This isn't a fraud?' And she said, 'Well if you don't want to do it, don't do it we can leave everything the way it is,'" Munoz told FOX40.

Munoz decided to wire the money at a local Wallgreens and told her husband, who encouraged her to contact the police.

Investigators told her she was the victim of a scam.

Scams like this could be started by anyone, living anywhere. In this specific case, Munoz was asked to wire money to someone in Peru.

Munoz says she felt forced to pay. She moved to the United States from Mexico and became a citizen in 2008. After hearing stories about deportations, the call frightened her. She didn't want anything to happen to her family.

"In that moment I thought if I get arrested, they would take away my papers my kids would be affected," she said.

FOX40 called the numbers used to contact Munoz. They were either disconnected or went unanswered. A check with Florida's Division of Corporations showed the beauty school has no record of even existing in the state.

United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement gave FOX40 this statement:

"We remind the public to be suspicious of anyone claiming to be a law enforcement officer who says he or she can make your legal issues disappear for an amount of money -- or threaten you in any way. Government officials will never accept cash payments."

Munoz knows there's no way she'll get her money back, and the people behind the scam may never be caught.

"It makes me scared," Munoz said. "But I have to say it so other persons can watch out and not fall for what I fell for."