You might have heard of people faking their own deaths because it sounds like an easy way to get out of an unpleasant situation. While disappearing without a trace can be harder than it sounds, how much harder is it to fake your own kidnapping in the hope of scoring three bitcoins without anyone suspecting a thing?
Believe it or not, a pastor in Brazil did exactly that. The 34-year-old evangelist named Alaxandre Geraldo de Anjos, who works at the Assemblia de Deus Missao, disappeared on February 26th and had a friend call in a ransom demand of three bitcoin, worth about $34,000 at the time of his supposed kidnapping. Rather than cave and pay a ransom that high, his family called the police.
After about four days of frustrated waiting, the evangelist reappeared and went to the police station to tell the story of his supposed kidnapping and escape. However, investigators quickly realized that his story didn’t add up and referred him to the Sao Jose General Investigations Office. Dos Anjos caved to the investigators’ rigorous questioning quickly enough and confessed to having orchestrated the entire thing.
General Investigations Office Deputy Neimar Camargo said of the staged kidnapping, “We received a complaint yesterday stating that the pastor had had lunch at a restaurant in Jacarei. We went there to investigate, we took the video surveillance footage and saw that he appeared calm. When he began to tell the story of his kidnapping, it became obvious he was lying.”
Dos Anjos said that he had staged the kidnapping because he had a large debt to pay. He was able to fool the friend who had called in the ransom demand by buying a new SIM card for his phone and using it to send an SMS to his friend. Investigators believe that the friend knew nothing of Dos Anjos’ plan.
Kidnappings for cryptocurrency ransoms are not original to this pastor. Late last year, cryptocurrency exchange owner Pavel Lerner was kidnapped and released only after paying a ransom of $1 million in bitcoins. Earlier this year, Louis Meza was arrested for his part in a botched plot to kidnap a business associate for an Ethereum ransom.
Dos Anjos is currently out of jail on judicial control, but will face charges related to being the first cleric to stage his own kidnapping to demand a bitcoin ransom.