Indiana police arrested four men who allegedly held a woman captive because they knew she already received her coronavirus stimulus check. The four men were charged Monday after a woman called police Sunday to report she was being held against her will, Lake Station police said. Millions of American tax payers began receiving their stimulus checks from the federal government earlier this month as part of a coronavirus relief package signed into law last month.
Paul David Blankenship and Philip David Guzman of Lake Station, and Christopher William Jay Henderson if Hobart were charged on Monday, according to court records, reports the Northwest Indiana Times. The four men were charged with "burglary with a deadly weapon, armed robbery, criminal confinement and burglary of a dwelling and residential entry break and enter." They allegedly held the woman captive on Sunday.
Just before 6 a.m. Sunday, police received a call from a woman who said she was held captive for four hours, Lake Station Police Chief James Richardson said. The alleged victim said she knew the men, who entered her home at around 1:30 a.m., police said. One man had a gun and they took her phone so she could not call 911 when they were there. The men left, and told her not to leave because they planned to return. After she was sure they were gone, she drove to the closest police station.
The victim said the men knew she received her stimulus check and they wanted the money, police said. A detective investigated the case and the four men were arrested. They are being held at Lake County Jail on $75,000, according to court records.
This was not the only stimulus check-related crime reported in recent days. Earlier this week, the Louisiana State Fire Marshal's Office arrested 51-year-old Marvin Smith Jr. of Hamburg, Louisiana for allegedly setting fire to his mother's shed after getting into an argument over his stimulus check status. Witnesses told police Smith was inside the shed just before they saw smoke and flames coming from it. He fled the scene on a recreational vehicle. When sheriff's deputies took him into custody, he was carrying a knife, police said.
Federal authorities have also warned those who received their stimulus check through direct deposits to be on the lookout for scams. The Federal Trade Commission notes that any mail claiming to be a stimulus check at this point is fake, since the physical checks are not expected to arrive until May. A common scam is a call claiming to be from the IRS, but the agency will never call asking for personal information.