LEE COUNTY, Fla. - The phone rings. On the other end is a kidnapper who won't release a member of your family until you pay up. But, the Lee County Sheriff's Office says it's a scam. Luckily, a North Fort Myers family did all the right things, staying safe, and keeping their money.
Tuesday morning, Macon Stewart's phone rang. There was an unfamiliar voice on the other end, "Saying they had my step brother tied up, hog-tied," Stewart said. "They took his cell phone from him, and said that he had messed up his Mercedes Benz."
His step-brother, Vincent Etgeton does mechanic work, so it was a believable story.
"They would not let us talk to him, they were demanding $2,000, wanting us to meet up with him," Stewart recalled.
Macon and his mother were frantically calling family, trying to pull together enough money to rescue him.
"It was terrifying," Stewart said. "My mom, she was in tears, we all were in tears. We prayed, hopefully that they wouldn't kill him because we thought they had him."
In the meantime, they called the Lee County Sheriff's Office. Macon rode with a deputy to Vincent's house, who wasn't kidnapped, but was cutting vegetables in the kitchen.
"I had not clue at all," Etgeton said. "I went out, looked out the window and saw the the first cop car."
"About that time, he walks through the front door, and he was there ," Stewart said.
Soon after, Vincent said one car turned into more than a dozen.
"His face started turning white, he had to lean down on his knees, he was getting so scared," Stewart said.
The Sheriff's Office says they aren't the only one's in Lee County who've gotten this threatening call. While the 727 area code comes from Pinellas County, they say the call is likely coming from out of the country. We tried calling the number, but got no answer.
Fake call or not, the step-brothers are thankful for the quick response.
"In the light of things, 20 of them showed up to save my life," Etgeton said.
We found very similar phone scams happening in Osceola and Monroe counties just in the past three months. If you get one of these calls, the Sheriff's Office urges you to verify the information by calling a relative, do not send money, and call the police.