ROSELLE PARK - Criminals out of Florida and Puerto Rico have been scamming unsuspecting families, including one from Roselle Park.
Edward Melchionna got a call that his younger brother, Stefano, had been severely injured in a car crush near the Rutgers Newark campus, where he is a student. Within minutes, Melchionna and his father were in a car racing toward Newark.
"They said my brother had trauma to his head," Melchionna told News 12 New Jersey, "(that) he was bleeding from his mouth."
Even more frightening is that the caller knew personal information about Stefano, including his first and last name, make and model of his car, and his license plate number. Pretty soon, the calls became aggressive and demanding. The caller demanded $3,000, saying the crash was Stefano's fault, and that he'd be harmed if they did not provide the money.
It wasn't until Melchionna heard from his younger brother that he learned it was all an elaborate hoax.
"I don't even have words to describe how upset I am that this happened to us," Melchionna said.
According to police and the FBI, Melchionna is just one of many victims of this scam. The criminals obtain personal information, then reach out to family members hoping to catch them off-guard so they can make their demands.
The FBI office in San Juan, Puerto Rico says the culprits are often prison inmates with associates on the outside. Anyone who receives a similar call is advised to immediately hang up and call the police.