Houston woman arrested for 'virtual kidnapping' scheme

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A Houston woman is accused of a virtual kidnapping scheme that convinced victims to pay thousands of dollars in ransom in Texas, California and Idaho, according to federal authorities.

Yanette Rodriguez Acosta, 34, was arrested this week after being indicted on ten counts of fraud charges. She also goes by the name Yanette Patino.

"Virtual kidnappings" are schemes that involve calls or messages to victims claiming a relative has been kidnapped, according to Christina Garza with the FBI's Houston Office. The caller demands wire transfers or cash drops of ransom payments.

"It's an extremely scary situation because you're going to believe at some point that somebody has your loved one," Garza said. "There have been people who pay thousands and thousands of dollars for ransom for individuals who weren't ever kidnapped."

That's the type of scheme what Yanette is accused of being involved with. A federal grand jury indicted her this week. She's accused being involved with accomplices in Mexico and contacting 39 families in Texas, California and Idaho and convincing them their loved ones were kidnapped.

One victim was allegedly told their loved one's fingers would be cut off if they didn't pay up, according to the indictments.

"They're going to try to get you scared. They're going to try press you, try to get you act very quickly. They're going to be very aggressive, so stay calm," Garza said.

The indictment alleges two families from The Woodlands were told to drop cash off in Houston for Yanette to pick up; other victims were allegedly told to wire money to Mexico.

Investigators said if you get a call like this to hang up and get a hold of your supposedly missing loved one. Then, call the FBI.

They also suggest being mindful of what you post online.

"We put so much information in our social media profiles about who are we related to, where we work, where we go to school. We check into locations. We tell people exactly where you are and who you're with," Garza said. "We have to be mindful of what we're putting out there."

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