New Crime of Choice: Extortion

October 1st, 2013
by Alfonso Ebanks

[private]In the last few years a monster has been emerging from the dark and dangerous minds of the criminals in this country. This monster has a name: extortion.

An MS-13 gang member arrested in Houston in a robbery and extortion plot displays is tattoo. (FBI photo)

FBI photo of an MS-13 gang member arrested in Houston in a robbery and extortion plot.

Criminality in this country is rampant, and not all of it is related to the traffic of drugs through our territory.  The fight for territory among rival drug gangs is one of the prime movers of what seem like random killings. The police often catalogue these murders as an “adjustment of accounts.” They never specify what kind of accounts are being settled. But as long as it’s criminals killing other criminals, we can tell ourselves it doesn’t affect us and just do our best not to be caught in the crossfire. The spread of extortion, on the other hand, affects everyone, and it is becoming the biggest business in the country.

The reason this crime is becoming so widespread is that it can be initiated by just a phone call from a cheap phone by anyone from anywhere. They don’t have to provide proof of their capacity to carry out their threats.

There are organized gangs in certain barrios that run this business. They have the city of La Ceiba , and I presume other large cities as well, divided into sections according to the number of gangs that operate in the city. In the last two years, more than 120 businesses in La Ceiba have been closed because of this plague that has descended on the people of this once joyous city.

Just recently an international bus line had to uproot its business and move to a less convenient but less conspicuous location after receiving an extortion threat. The owners of the business told the local manager that it was his problem. The extortionist does not take into account that almost all the businesses in La Ceiba are operated by employees that cannot make decisions of such magnitude.  All the bus line’s employees left their jobs out of fear for their lives.

The bus line’s relocation is only a temporary reprieve. The threats are still in the air, but they will now come from another gang that owns that portion of the city where they moved.

In the last couple of months the extortionists have expanded their business to include individual homeowners. However, it appears they are not doing their homework, because some of the people they are targeting are fighting every day just to survive in these times of crisis.  It seems to me that the criminals are selecting their victims based on the kind of car they drive.

I suspect the extortionists are getting information about their targets from the license plates on their cars. This is easy to do. Anyone who has an online account with any bank can request to pay the registration of any car. The bank will furnish the name of the owner. Then all the criminal has to do is call Hondutel’s directory information line to get the phone number and address. Up to now the extortionists are calling only individuals with Hondutel fixed-line service. If you have a Hondutel fixed line, you might want to consider paying the extra charge to have your number unlisted. Your name might still appear in some phone directory. But at least they won’t be able to find you just by dialing 192.

This social malady is creating havoc on the mainland. I pray that it never be exported to the Bay Islands. We have enough problems as it is.[/private]

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