Police lured a suspected blackmailer into a sting Thursday after she tried to extort a woman after finding lurid pics on her lost cellphone.
The victim was attending a concert on Capitol Hill around 12:30 AM Thursday when she noticed her phone had disappeared from her purse.
Later that morning, around 9 AM, someone began texting the victim’s mother, offering to sell back the victim’s phone. The suspect said they’d found “racy pictures” on the phone and demanded $98.
The victim and her mother texted with the suspect throughout the day, as the ransom on the phone continued to rise, first to $500 and then to $1,000. After agreeing to pay, the victim asked the suspect to meet her in a coffee shop parking lot on Capitol Hill. The suspect agreed, but warned the victim not to contact police.
After setting up the meet, the victim headed straight for the Seattle Police Department’s East Precinct, where she explained the situation to officers.
Police tried tracking and remotely wiping the woman’s phone, but when those efforts failed they took a decidedly low-tech approach. Officer Dan Auderer changed out of his patrol blues and into shorts and a t-shirt, and accompanied the victim—along with a group of uniformed officers—to her meeting with her blackmailer.
Shortly after the victim and Officer Auderer arrived at the meeting spot, a gray pickup truck pulled up and a woman got out of the passenger side. She approached the victim, phone in hand, and demanded money.
Uniformed officers moved in and arrested the 29-year-old suspect and the pickup truck driver.
The driver told police he’d just given the suspect, his roommate, a ride to the scene and didn’t know anything about the deal for the phone. The suspect claimed she had bought the phone from someone on the street, but couldn’t explain why she’d told the victim not to involve police in the incident. Officers booked the suspect into the King County Jail for extortion and possession of stolen property, and returned the phone to the victim.