- Associated Press - Friday, June 26, 2015

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (AP) - A Fort Wayne woman and two of her adult children have been formally indicted on charges they bilked a couple out of about $1.5 million over seven years by sending text messages purportedly from the Mafia threatening to abduct family members or family members of friends.

A third adult child of the woman also was arrested and charged Thursday in connection with the scheme. William Custer Jr., 26, is accused of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and forfeiture, the same charges filed against his sisters, Ashley Custer, 25, and Sidney Custer, 24.

Their mother, Kelly Custer, is charged with one count each of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and forfeiture, wire fraud and forfeiture and interstate communications with intent to extort, The (Fort Wayne) Journal Gazette (http://bit.ly/1KfOTKQ ) reported.

The family is accused of preying on a couple who was renting a home to Kelly Custer, 53, from 2007 to May 2015, when the couple finally alerted authorities, according to federal court documents.

The couple told investigators that they typically paid Kelly Custer between $2,000 and $10,000 at a time, but they paid her $50,000 on one occasion.

Federal agents took control of the couple’s cellphone to communicate with the person sending the threatening messages. Investigators witnessed the Custers arrive at a local park to pick up a payment of more than $2,000 set up by the FBI, they said.

It wasn’t immediately known if the Custers have attorneys.

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Information from: The Journal Gazette, http://www.journalgazette.net

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