Police: Trio faked Bridgeview kidnapping to pay off gambling debts

CHICAGO (STMW) - A Bridgeview man and two of his southwest suburban cohorts called in a phony kidnapping Friday night to shake down his mother for thousands in ransom money to help pay off gambling debts, authorities allege.

Joseph Vicario’s mother got a phone call from her son’s girlfriend, 21-year-old Amanda Woods, who said the couple had been kidnapped and were being held by assailants demanding $3,000 in cash, according to Bridgeview police.

Vicario’s mother heard what sounded like her 25-year-old son being beaten in the background, with Vicario yelling “Don’t hit me,” police said. She then received text messages from her son’s cellphone indicating the ransom demand had increased to $4,000, police said.

The woman told the supposed kidnapper she would pay the money before hanging up and calling Bridgeview police, who tracked Vicario’s phone to 95th Street and Melvina Avenue in Oak Lawn, police said.

Officers found Woods safe behind the wheel of a car with Vicario in the passenger seat and 26-year-old Chicago Ridge resident Shane Ablan in the back seat, police said.

They later admitted to carrying out the plan hatched by Vicario, who lives with his mother in Bridgeview and said he needed cash to settle gambling debts, police said. Woods, an Oak Lawn resident, had placed the call while Ablan struck his hand near the phone and Vicario screamed in the background, police said.

All three were charged with felony counts of disorderly conduct. Bond was set at $100,000 on Saturday for both men, who are due back in court Tuesday, according to the Cook County sheriff’s office. Bond information was not immediately available for Woods.

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