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Florida Man Posing as Drug Cartel Kidnapper Accused of Pocketing $120K After Texting Wife Ransom Demands: Cops

Florida Man Told Wife He Was Kidnapped But Stealing Ransom Money: Cops
Source: Brevard County Jail; Unsplash

Eric Johnson behind bars after lying to his wife about being kidnapped and stealing the ransom money, police said.

Mar. 14 2024, Published 4:02 p.m. ET

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A man in Florida is behind bars after authorities claim he pretended to be kidnapped by a drug cartel and allegedly extorted over $70,000 in ransom payments from his wife.

On Dec. 14, 2023, police opened an investigating into the alleged scheme after the wife of 29-year-old Eric Johnson went to police to report him missing, saying he was “being held for ransom,” according to an arrest affidavit obtained by WRBW.

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The wife told detectives that she started receiving texts from a phone number she did not recognize that warned her husband would be hurt if she didn’t send money.

The wife said she and Johnson met in 2020 and got married in January 2023, but had a large wedding planned for January 2024.

She told authorities that Johnson had previously told her he had been involved in a drug cartel before they met and he had a $60,000 drug shipment intercepted, so he owed money to cover the loss.

Johnson had gone missing on a couple other occasions two or three months prior, and the wife said she paid money to her husband’s CashApp account so he could be released, the affidavit states, noting Johnson returned home about an hour later each time.

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The first text message the wife received on Oct. 7, 2023, read: “You have 10 minutes to send 600 dollars to your husbands cash app for him messing up my business…I’m sure he has said it was over many times but this is his last payment…If it isn’t sent things happen.”

She told police she received similar messages in October and December. Some of those texts included, “500 now or buenas noches;” “Better send that 500 now or he won’t make it to the wedding;” and “Last one I’m absolutely positive it is…but send me 600 now or your husband’s throat is peeled.”

On Dec. 12, 2023, Johnson went missing again and his purported abductors were allegedly driving him around in the wife's car. She begged them for mercy via text, pleading: “Can you just tell me if he’s ok please? He’s the only family I have.”

The wife said she sent money on Dec. 14, but Johnson never came home. Over the following three months, she told police, she sent money over 50 times and only had “$1.71 to her name,” according to authorities.

She said she didn’t go to authorities earlier because she was scared for her husband’s safety.

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Detectives investigating Johnson’s alleged scheme determined the phone number that the texts came from actually belonged to him. They also viewed street cameras and saw the car he was supposedly being held captive in, but it only had the driver inside, the affidavit states.

On Dec. 14, 2023, police spotted Johnson driving in Melbourne, and officers performed a traffic stop. He was brought in for questioning and during the interview, he allegedly admitted the whole kidnapping scheme was a ruse to get his wife to send him money, which he used to buy cocaine, law enforcement officials said.

Johnson was found with a small amount of cocaine and a crack pipe in the car, according to police.

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At the time, he was arrested on drug possession charges, but bonded out and cops continued to investigate his alleged kidnapping scheme.

Police said investigators reviewed Johnson's phone, which allegedly showed he was sexting women while he was purportedly missing.

According to the affidavit, detectives believe Johnson defrauded his wife of over $120,000 since they met in 2020.

On March 7, Johnson was arrested and charged with multiple crimes, including grand theft over $70,000, fraud and extortion, officials said.

He was booked into the Brevard County Jail and remains on a $24,000 bond. His next scheduled court date is April 16.

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