REYNOSA, Mexico—Authorities here say they have identified a ring of extortion artists whose ranks include several city police officers. But lacking a formal complaint from a victim, prosecution may be difficult.
Municipal Officer Raul Osuna, a former police commander, became the target of a state police investigation after an Oct. 24 shootout killed two and seriously injured a third.
The resulting evidence has implicated at least three police officers in an extortion and kidnapping operation that also involved people claiming to be journalists, with Osuna the ringleader, said Rene Gerardo Ruiz, an investigator for Tamaulipas state.
It was a reminder that despite an increased presence on the border by this nation’s federal law enforcement arm, corrupt elements within city police forces remain a problem.
Members of the gang terrorized and extorted money from families under threat of kidnapping, and they got the worst of the shootout, investigators believe. It was unclear who was shooting back at them.
Investigators say the ring was made up of police officers and journalists. The wounded driver called himself the editor of a magazine called Siglo de Mexico, one of dozens of minor publications with small circulations along the border.
People knew Perez as a photographer and Trujillo as an editor.
Ruiz said they were really extortion artists and said investigators suspect they used the magazine as a cover, interviewing likely targets to learn personal information about them.
The cops are suspected of working as the muscle and phoning the targets to threaten them or a family member with kidnapping if money wasn’t paid.
Ruiz said the journalists then would go to the state police offices, and, under the guise of writing an article, ask if authorities received any complaints of telephone kidnapping threats.
Those who complained were not bothered further, Ruiz said, but the ring carried out their threats on those who didn’t speak up.