The terrifying video shows a woman blindfolded, blood dripping from her mouth. Standing behind her, a man holds a knife to his captive’s throat. “Mommy. They’ve kidnapped me, Mommy, and I don’t know why,” sobs the young woman in the frame. “You can’t say anything to the police. If you do, they’ll kill me.”
But the supposed victim’s life was never actually in danger, authorities say—in fact, she faked the whole thing.
The 30-year-old woman and four others were arrested on the Spanish island of Tenerife, the Civil Guard said in a statement, over an alleged plot to extort a ransom payment out of the arrested woman’s mother.
The surreal plot involved using fake blood to bolster the con’s realism, with the “victim” telling her mother in the video that her captors had beaten her. She added in the clip that she’d been deprived of food and wouldn’t be released until the gang that kidnapped her received a $50,000 ransom.
When her worried mother received the blood-curdling clip, the concerned parent duly withdrew cash to pay the ransom. Incredibly, investigators would later discover that the mother had already made similar payments totaling $45,000 on three previous occasions when she’d received menacing letters threatening the life of her daughter, the Civil Guard’s statement said.
Local authorities centered their investigation of the partner of the real victim’s daughter and uncovered that his family was involved in the kidnapping plot, The Times reports. Although the case was initially treated as a real kidnapping, officers quickly found that the supposed victim was fine, and free to come and go as she liked.
When authorities arrested the group over the alleged scheme, the woman in the clip and her accused co-conspirators were living it up at a slot-machine casino. Civil Guard investigators also found the fake blood and the knife used in the video.
They now face charges including extortion and other offenses, with an extortion charge alone carrying a sentence between one and five years imprisonment in Spain.