Asian businesses receive frightening threats

May 15, 2009 6:23:07 PM PDT
Some Asian business owners in the Bay Area and around the country are receiving chilling telephone threats from China. San Francisco gang task force investigators say a new kind of terrorist is threatening some members of the Asian community by using the internet as a weapon. Online terrorists have made some frightening and violent telephone threats.

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San Francisco police are investigating about 50 of these calls. In fact, police in cities with large Chinese populations across the country say there have been hundreds of them. One of the victims recorded her conversation.

"If they don't comply, they'll kill him or else they would harm their children," said Jamison Pon as he translated one of the recorded phone calls. "One of the victims told me they threatened to cut the limbs off their children in front of them."

Inspectors Pon and Henry Seto have never seen anything like this in their combined 50 years of experience as Asian gang investigators.

The extortionists speak mandarin Chinese. Police believe they're from China. They make the calls on Skype -- the free internet phone service. They demand $10,000 to $20,000 and tell the victims to wire the money, which makes the transaction untraceable. So far, victims across the country have paid a lot of money.

"There's the possibility over $100,000 that was wired over to China," said Seto.

Seto says the actual figure is probably double that because many victims haven't called police for fear of retaliation.

"He asked for money. I was very scared," said a victim.

The victim did not want to be identified because she's a prominent businesswoman in San Francisco's Chinatown. She received one of those calls at her office.

"He started to say he was with the mafia and he said his members were around my office," said the victim.

She did not give any money, but she does not work alone in her office anymore. Her friend also received a similar call.

"She was very scared. She won't stay in her office in the evenings or nights," said the victim.

Police believe the callers get their names from the Chinese Yellow Pages, which is also on the internet. Pon and Seto's binder is filled with more than 60 reported cases in San Francisco alone. They say so far, the extortionists have not carried out their threats of violence.

Police believe this is a big sophisticated scam that's actually scared some people into paying money and the calls just keep on coming. They say if you get one of them, just hang up and report it to police.

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