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Syracuse-based phone scammers sentenced for extortion of New Yorkers

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) - The ringleader and his co-conspirator of an elaborate phone scheme have been convicted for extorting $14,529 from people across New York State. 

27-year-old Giovani Ayla-Rodriguez is facing a sentence of six to 12 years in prison for his involvement in the scheme. 

He must also pay $14,529 in restitution. 

Ayla-Rodriguez's co-conspirator, Orlando Gonzalez-Rivera, was also convicted. He is facing six months in jail.          

After receiving multiple complaints from victims, in March 2018, the Attorney General’s office issued a consumer alert warning New Yorkers of this extortion scheme.

A joint investigation by the New York State Attorney General’s Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau and the New York State Police identified over 55 victims throughout New York State, including in the counties of Onondaga, Kings, Nassau, Oneida, Madison, Oswego, Cayuga, Niagara, Cortland, and Genesee.

The elaborate extortion scheme was conducted by Giovani Ayala-Rodriguez, Eligio Jimenez-Correa, and Orlando Gonzalez-Rivera.

Ayala-Rodriguez would call sequential telephone numbers, containing the same area code and three-digit prefix.

When a potential victim answered, Ayala-Rodriguez – often using the alias George Peters – claimed that the victims’ close relatives were in a car accident that resulted in injury to his nephew.

Ayala-Rodriguez claimed to have abducted the victim’s sibling, spouse, or parent from the purported accident scene to a nearby residence where they would be held until the victim paid a ransom to cover the nephew’s medical bills.

Ayala-Rodriguez threatened to cause physical harm to the victim’s family member if a ransom was not paid, and claimed that that he and his nephew were drug dealers and/or gang members.

To further instill fear, he would mimic the sounds of the victim’s relative begging, crying, and being assaulted.

When certain victims hesitated to comply with his demands, Ayala-Rodriguez threatened to shoot and kill their loved ones. 

Some victims were directed to pay the ransom money by following a series of instructions to deliver the money to specific “drop locations.”

In other instances, victims were directed to pay ransom money through wire transfers to specific accounts in the United States and/or Puerto Rico, including Walmart-to-Walmart money transfers.

Jimenez-Correa and Gonzalez-Rivera allegedly participated in the scheme by picking up money delivered by victims.

After paying the ransom money, many victims were allegedly directed to area hospitals to pick up their relatives – only to learn that they were the victims of an elaborate and terrifying hoax, and that their relatives had never been in car accidents or abducted.

Attorney General Barbara Underwood reminds New Yorkers of the following tips to avoid falling victim to this type of extortion scheme: 

  • If the caller is a stranger, be alert. Be aware that this type of extortion scam depends on fear. The scammer knows they need to work quickly to obtain your money because you may try to take steps, even while on the phone with the scammer, to figure out if your relative is in actual danger. Scammers will try to keep you on the line. 
  • Never give out personal information to a stranger on the phone.
  • Never wire money through Western Union, MoneyGram, or any other wire service to a stranger.
  • Never purchase gift or money cards for the purpose of providing the gift card numbers to someone else.
  • Immediately contact the police if you get a call like the ones described here.

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