Man scammed by thieves saying they would kill his brother

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JOHNSON COUNTY, Kan. -- Woody Towner was the victim of a particularly cruel scam. Someone called his cell phone saying they would kill his brother unless he paid them $2,000.

It happened on Tuesday. Towner, a tow truck driver, was working. His cell phone rang and the voice on the other end said his brother had been in a car accident with the caller. The voice then said Towner's brother didn't have the money to pay for the damages and wanted to call the police.

The caller then went on to say he beat up Towner's brother and was holding him for ransom. If Towner hung up, the caller said he would put a bullet in his brother's head.

"They wanted me to give them debit card numbers or bank numbers and all that and I didn't carry a debit card and my bank number is at the bank," Towner said. "All I know if I messed up, my brother would lose his life and it would be my fault and I don't know how a person's supposed to live with that."

Towner said he drove around for an hour with the caller on the phone, terrified that one wrong move would mean his brother's life.

"I remember the Johnson County Sheriff's Department doing something on 56 Highway, so I went in there and put a cop up next to my ear so he could hear and once he heard he put me in their command post."

Towner continued to talk to the caller until the sheriff's deputies could contact Towner's brother. When it was clear his brother was safe, at work, the deputies took over the call.

"This is a reoccurring scam, " said deputy Tom Erickson. "This same scam basically using the same phone number has been attempted in different parts of the United States."

Although this is the first time law enforcement is aware of it in the Kansas City area, they say to always remember a few things to avoid being a target of scammers.

"When you get a random phone call that doesn't make sense, question it. Kidnappings of adults are very, very rare and never give money over the phone to someone you don't know or you didn't contact directly," Erickson said.

Towner did not give the scammers his information, but says if he hadn't seen the sheriff's deputies, he would have done anything to save his brother's life.

"I've heard of scams, but I never thought I would fall for one," he said.

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