A 31-year-old homeless man said to have drug problems was behind bars Tuesday on suspicion of trying to extort his mother out of $300 with a bogus claim he was being held hostage, police said.
Robert Nunez's mother called police Sunday when she had not heard from him for a couple of days before receiving a text message from his phone that "he was dead," according to Santa Ana police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna.
A missing persons case was opened, but homicide detectives became involved when she received "several text messages demanding money or her son would be killed," Bertagna said.
The ransom demand was $300, Bertagna said.
Nunez's mother told police her son had "narcotics issues and was living on the streets," Bertagna said.
Eventually investigators traced where the phone was and arrested Nunez and another man when they determined Nunez was sending the text messages to extort money from his mother, Bertagna alleged.
"This is the third case like this we've had in the past month,'' Bertagna said.
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Aside from being a nuisance, it detracts investigators on the homicide unit from working on more serious, legitimate cases, Bertagna said.
In anther case two weeks ago a group of youths were "doing the same thing" to get money from family members, Bertagna said.
"In cases like this everybody drops what they're doing and gets involved in the case to save this alleged victim from being murdered, so it taxes the homicide guys who are already busy," Bertagna said.