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Spanish indie band Delorean’s stop in Mexico City to play a music festival turned into a nightmare after the group became victims of what law enforcement is calling a “virtual kidnapping.”
While staying at the Four Points hotel in Mexico City's upscale Colonia Roma district, the band received a call from an unknown source warning of a shootout outside the hotel and that they should leave for a new hotel. The caller allegedly began to then make threats to band, telling them to withdraw money from ATMs, destroy their cell phones and make no contact with anyone outside the hotel or they would be harmed.
The alleged “virtual kidnappers” proceeded to contact the band’s family members and told them they had the band hostage, demanding a ransom amounting to $380,000. After police intervened, the band was finally freed after 48 hours though details of how the incident unfolded are still hazy.
“On Monday morning October 7th we received a phone call at our hotel room in Mexico City from a person posing as a hotel security officer…What followed for the next 30 hours was an experience where the threat of death was real due to the psychological manipulation inflicted on us by our kidnappers,” Delorean said in a statement. “Thanks to the fantastic work of the National Police in Spain, Ertzantza, Interpol and the Federal Police in Mexico, we were successfully rescued yesterday morning.”
The announcement of this new form of kidnapping sent a shockwave through the Spanish music community with Delorean cancelling a number of shows – including four in the U.S. and Canada – and fellow Spanish artists John Talabot and Pional also cancelled concerts in Mexico.
Despite the harrowing turn of events, Delorean stopped short of blaming the country's current instability due to the violence stemming from the ongoing drug war.
“While it would be convenient to blame Mexico, that would not be sound. This could have occurred anywhere in the world,” the band said, according to Spin Magazine. “Our hope is that this situation will bring attention to the abuse that we were subjected to by our kidnappers, so that other travelers do not fall victim in the future.”
Virtual kidnappings have become a popular form of extortion in Mexico with perpetrators targeting Mexican citizens, tourists and immigrants equally.
The Associated Press reported that families of undocumented immigrants in Arizona are increasingly being targeted by an extortion scam in which criminals falsely claim to have kidnapped their loved ones as the immigrants tried to sneak across the U.S. border with Mexico.
The culprits behind so-called "virtual kidnappings" typically strike when undocumented immigrants make the three- to four-day journey through the remote desert, where they are cut off from communicating with family members.
Relatives are told to cough up thousands of dollars or their loved ones will be maimed or killed.
"It's just an extension of what happens in Mexico," said Armando Garcia, assistant special agent in charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Arizona, where the trend first appeared 10 years ago and has escalated to an average of one case being reported each week.