Clown-suited blackmailer convicted

A man has been convicted of extortion in a bizarre scheme that involved collecting the loot while wearing a clown suit and riding a miniature bicycle. Frank Salvador Solorza targetted his immigrant cousins in Redwood City, sending letters and calling them, posing as an immigration officer who threatened to deport them unless they paid him $50,000 to ensure that their papers "would be good forever." The family called the police, who worked with them to arrest the blackmailer, who called and told them that the money would be collected by "a man in a clown suit and riding a small bicycle."

Solorza was arrested after picking up a bag which he believed contained $50,000, wearing "a clown suit, a clown glitter wig, a Pirates of the Caribbean hat (complete with dreadlocks), and sunglasses." He was riding a small bicycle. He was carrying a receipt for the outfit from the House of Humor costume store in Redwood City. Perhaps he intended to return it after the caper.

Solorza is a cousin of the alleged victims, who emigrated from Mexico. The father of four said three Norteno gang members had put him up to the scam.

The feds didn't buy that.

"Nortenos always dress in their colors; they don't use disguises, let alone engage in crimes wearing clown suits," Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kevin Barry and Denise Marie Barton wrote in a sentencing memo filed in U.S. District Court in Oakland.

Blackmailer in a clown suit gets 3 years (via Lowering the Bar)

(Image: Clown, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from chris-rice's photostream)

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