PROVIDENCE, R.I. – A man tried to extort $25,000 from a gas station owner by claiming he was a federal agent who had information linking the businessman to Al Qaeda and threatening to jail him, prosecutors said Friday.
George Tabora, 44, was charged with attempted extortion and impersonating a federal officer. He has been held since his arrest on Wednesday.
It was unclear whether Tabora had an attorney. No one returned phone messages left at his home.
Warwick police arrested Tabora after catching his teenage son retrieving fake money where his father allegedly told the gas station owner to leave it — in a green drainage pipe next door to Tabora's home.
Prosecutors said Tabora enlisted his wife, who worked at the gas station, in the alleged plot and made at least one threatening call from his home phone. Tabora's wife and son have not been charged.
The gas station owner, an unidentified man of Middle Eastern descent, told police earlier this month that he had received a phone call from a man who claimed to be a Homeland Security official named Carl Johnson.
The caller threatened to jail him and "go after" his wife and daughters unless he paid $25,000, according to court records. In return for the money, the caller promised to turn over a file and CD with information about the businessman.
During a second phone call a week later, the caller spooked the gas station owner by feeding him details about his personal and business life, prosecutors said. That same day, Tabora's wife told her boss an armed Homeland Security agent visited the gas station and warned that the owner had three days to pay.
She gave her boss a badge number identical to one used by the caller, but she refused to speak with police when he asked, authorities said.
Police said they recorded a phone call during which Tabora allegedly set up the money drop. The caller referred to his supposed visit to the gas station.
"I showed her my badge," Tabora said, according to prosecutors. "I showed my ID ... and I showed her my gun."
"Oh, you had a gun, too?" the gas station owner asked, as police listened.
"I carry a gun, of course," the purported agent said. "I'm Homeland Security."
Records from the telephone company show "Agent Johnson" was calling from Tabora's home phone, police said.