Employee found unharmed after kidnapping and robbery at Santa Ana auto parts store - OCRegister

An employee at a Santa Ana auto parts store was the victim of an extortion scam on Monday evening, in what police first reported to be a robbery and kidnapping, authorities said Tuesday, Jan. 12.

Officers initially said a suspect entered the AutoZone on South Bristol Street and McFadden Avenue, took cash and then abducted an employee.

But on Tuesday, Cpl. Anthony Bertagna said the saga actually began when someone called the business and talked to the manager.

“The manager got a call from someone who claimed that if he did not take money to them they’d send people with guns to the store,” Bertagna said.

Bertagna said the manager took money from the business – he would not say how much – and waited for the extortionists to show up. When they didn’t, he left the premises on foot.

“He was told to go somewhere to wire the money to an account,” he said.

It was not immediately known where he went to wire the money or through what service.

“The manager completed their directions out of fear,” Bertagna said.

At the same time, police officers were searching the area for who they thought was a suspect who made off with the store’s money, Bertagna said.

After the manager complied, he left the spot where he wired the money and flagged down a police car.

Detectives eventually untangled the events and determined from the suspect’s phone number that they were probably in Mexico.

Shortly after police found the store manager, someone called another AutoZone store and made the same demands to an employee. This time, the employee called police first, averting another transaction, Bertagna said.

No injuries were reported during the incident. No suspects have been located. Authorities said it may be difficult to trace them because often original phone numbers used in such crimes are deactivated.

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