SAN JUAN – The chairman of the Telecommunications Committee in Puerto Rico’s lower house introduced a bill to require registration of all cell phones on the island to combat a wave of extortions.
Jose Chico Vega told Efe on Thursday that the measure is intended to help end the thousands of extortion attempts that prison inmates are perpetrating by using cell phones to demand ransoms from loved ones of people they falsely claim to be holding.
The lawmaker said that the prisoners, who have smuggled cell phones into the jails, ask their victims to deposit certain quantities of funds at money-transfer shops, bank accounts or other places that they specify.
Chico Vega cited the case of a woman who, after receiving a telephone call from criminals who told her they had kidnapped her son, deposited $2,000 at a spot on the outskirts of San Juan.
He emphasized that thousands of cases like that had been registered in just the past few months, and so he said he will push for a law that would require the collection of assorted data from anybody who acquires a cell phone, which at present is not necessary in Puerto Rico for the purchase of prepaid phones.
The legislator said that he will also demand that phone calls from prisons to the rest of the island be blocked, an option for which he said the technical measures already exist and can be implemented.
Chico Vega said that, in any case, it is illegal for prisoners on the island to have cell phones, which the inmates manage to bring into the jails usually during furloughs they are allowed to make.
The police are investigating thousands of the cell phone extortion attempts made during 2009, most of them in Greater San Juan. EFE