Reno Police, FBI Investigate String of Fake Ransom Calls - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe Sparks News, Weather, Video

Reno Police, FBI Investigate String of Fake Ransom Calls

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Reno Police are working with the FBI on an investigation into a string of fake ransom calls Tuesday morning.

"That was the worst experience of my life," said Dr. Louis Bonaldi, who received one of the calls at his office. "For somebody else to go through that, to have that feeling, I couldn't work after that. I was an emotional basket case."

He received a call from a "Dr. Perez," thinking it was a medical call about a patient, but the man on the phone said he had Dr. Bonaldi's daughter. After asking if she was hurt, he got something no parent wants to hear...

"He said, 'no, I'm actually with the Mexican Cartel, and I'm going to chop one of her fingers off and send it to you if you don't send me some money.'"

The man wanted $50,000, and then put a girl on the phone who sounded similar to Dr. Bonaldi's daughter.

"She was crying, saying 'daddy, daddy, you've got to help me. Please help me,'" he said. "I got goosebumps now talking about it."

But, after speaking with her a second time, he knew it wasn't his daughter and refused to send money.

"He says, 'you will remember this call for the rest of your life, and you'll never see your daughter again,' and he hung up. ...Having talked to her twice with that voice, if I was convinced it was her, I would've given them the money."

He got off the phone and immediately called his daughter and found out she was okay. He then called police and learned he wasn't the only person who received a call.

"Today, the Reno office of the FBI, along with the Reno Police Department received several reports from some local physicians who had indicated they received a phone call," said Special Agent Christopher Johnson of the FBI. "Looking into this matter, we were able to learn that all the daughters of these physicians are safe and accounted for."

Each of the reported calls were similar in nature.

"The caller, as far as we know all indicates that he, is a male with a Hispanic accent," Special Agent Johnson said. "He appears to be calling from a large room with a lot of background noise."

He says if you receive a call, ask as many questions as possible.

"They should remain calm. Try to engage the person as much as possible, so that they can obtain as much information from that person."

Dr. Bonaldi thinks the caller may have gotten information from his professional website and social media accounts.

"Protect it from people who don't know you because I think that's really how he got some information that I didn't think this kind of person would normally have," he said.

The FBI says even if it's a hoax, they take all of these kinds of reports seriously.

"The charges are very serious," Special Agent Johnson said. "We like to remind everyone of that and anyone out there who's engaging in this sort of behavior, the U.S. Attorney's office locally takes these matters very seriously."

If you've received a call like this, call the Reno FBI Office at (775) 328-4000.

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