By Associated Press - Monday, April 10, 2017

MEXICO CITY (AP) - Inmates at a Mexican prison made extortion telephone calls to Mexicans living in several U.S. cities, often claiming to be relatives, prosecutors said Monday.

Jalisco state prosecutor Eduardo Almaguer said the fraudulent phone calls targeted Mexicans living in Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago and cities in Texas, Oklahoma, Tennessee and elsewhere.

Almaguer said a group of about 10 inmates made the calls using prohibited cellphones.

There is a technique used in Mexico to make fake kidnap calls in which a muffled or indistinct cry for help convinces some people that a relative is in danger. A voice then demands that money be sent or transferred. The calls often come from inside prisons and while many hang up or report the “virtual kidnappings” some people fall for them. Family members or confederates outside the prison can collect the transferred money.

Almaguer said in this case the inmates also managed to get migrants to send them tens of thousands of dollars by posing as lawyers calling from airports.

The exact nature of the calls is still under investigation, and authorities are awaiting a court order to examine the chips in the cellphones to determine who the calls were made to.

Almaguer noted that the inmates sometimes also posed as representatives of human rights groups.

He said a raid at the Puente Grande prison found seven prohibited cellphones and detailed scripts for making the calls.

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