A 34-year-old Florida woman was the "ringleader" of a criminal kidnapping and armed robbery scheme involving at least seven people and specifically targeting illegal immigrants, cops said.
Natalie Williams and two men, Joshua Reiff and Andres Rafael, were arrested Thursday by Davie police, who allege the trio was part of a group that abducted, beat and robbed a man -- and then threatened him with death or deportation if he reported the crime. The other alleged members of the crew were not immediately identified and authorities didn't say if they anticipated making other arrests.
“It is believed that this group is targeting undocumented immigrants and robbing them for their cash,” Sgt. Mark Leone told the Sun Sentinel. “We believe that they target these undocumented immigrants because they are less likely to report being a victim of a crime to the police.”
According to the arrest report, the incident began when Williams approached the driver of a Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck at a stop sign at about 9 p.m. Saturday and asked for a ride. When the driver refused, another man stepped in front of the truck and Williams, carrying a black handgun, reached through the passenger side window and opened the door, the Sun Sentinel reported.
Williams and the unidentified man who blocked the truck got into the vehicle and directed the driver to a home in the Western Hills Mobile Home Park in Davie, officials said. There, the pair allegedly blindfolded the driver and took him inside a home where five more men were waiting.
Police said the group tied the driver’s hands behind his back, sat him on a wooden chair and then assaulted him, punching him in the head, stomach and back. The group stole $1,387 in cash the man was carrying, about $4,000 worth of tools from his truck and also demanded his ATM card, threatening to kill him if he didn't provide the correct access code, authorities said.
In order to prevent the victim from going to the cops, the group told him he'd be deported if he spoke to police -- and Williams said she would frame the man for attempted rape, authorities said.
“We believe she’s the ringleader,” Leone told the Sun Sentinel.
The victim was eventually released at about 8:45 a.m. Sunday, officials said. He sought medical treatment for his injuries and, on Wednesday, led detectives back to the mobile home.
Williams, Reiff and Rafael were charged with armed robbery, aggravated battery and kidnapping.