Real Names: Unknown (Unrevealed at broadcast)
Alias: Lancaster Extortion Writer
Wanted For: Extortion
Missing Since: November 1988
Details: Two-hundred and sixty-three residents of the town of Lancaster, California have received letters from an unknown source demanding the recipients to send money to certain addresses. The letters said the extortionists would poison and kill the recipients and several members of their family if they did not comply. Many contained highly personal information about the recipients and their private lives. In each letter, the same warning was included: The police cannot protect you every minute of the day, month, and year. If you decide not to pay, we'll blow your brains out. Police are uncertain if the letters are a hoax or real.
One of the recipients was Eilene Maluccio. On November 2, 1988, she found a letter, typed on computer paper, stapled together with a rubber stamp "confidential" on it. The letter demanded that she send money to five local addresses. They asked her for $300,000 in denominations of tens and twenties. According to the writer, one of the people had a contract on her life. If she did not send the money, they would kill her or members of her family. Nearby, contractor Larry Purcell called the police after he received a similar letter also printed by computer. In his case, the extortionist demanded $200,000.
Eilene was disturbed by the detailed information in the letter about her late husband, who had died of a heart attack. The extortionist suggested that he did not die of a heart attack, but was instead poisoned. They also threatened to put toxic chemicals in her toothpaste, sprinkle mustard gas in her house, and kill her children. Finally, the extortionist claimed that he was part of a local organization of 2000 people.
Six detectives and dozens of volunteers have worked full-time on the case. A flow chart was created to help understand the connections between each recipient and the people who were supposed to receive the money. For example, the extortionist demanded that one person send money to five different people. Then, those five individuals were to send their money to other people, almost like a chain letter. Eventually, some of the money was sent back to the first person on the list. It was a constant and complex loop of money changing hands.
Detectives believe that the suspect may be one of the people receiving money from the victims. In all of the letters, the extortionist used language that was violent and vulgar. The grammar and spelling were inaccurate. The computer sheets were not placed in an envelope. Instead, they were simply stapled together and mailed with a twenty-five cent stamp. The letters were all postmarked Mojave, a town twenty-five miles from Lancaster, with the date November 1, 1988. They may have been mailed on Halloween night, suggesting that the scheme was a hoax. However, authorities and the recipients are taking the letters seriously.
Extra Notes: The case first aired on the November 23, 1988 episode. A similar case featured on the series was the Circleville Writer.
Results: Captured. The day after the broadcast, in Las Vegas, Nevada, police arrested two men whom they believed were responsible for the Lancaster Extortion letters. They were identified as twenty-seven-year-old Roman S. Makuch and twenty-six-year-old Richard M. Faroni. They lived in Lancaster until a week before the letters were mailed. The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department received calls from Lancaster residents, saying they suspected Makuch and Faroni. The men had access to a computer, along with records containing the personal details mentioned in the letters. A story written by Makuch was discovered to be written in a style similar to the letters.
In December, they were extradited back to Lancaster. In January of 1990, the two were convicted of extortion and other charges and sentenced to four years in prison. They both served three years and have since been released.
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