Fort Worth

TABC warns retailers of extortion scam

An example of an extortion letter sent to a local retailer.
An example of an extortion letter sent to a local retailer. Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission

The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission and U.S. Postal Service are investigating a suspected extortion scam that has targeted local retailers.

Investigators learned about the scam in October, when several area business owners reported they received letters claiming a third-party observer witnessed violations of the state alcoholic beverage code, the TABC said in a statement Monday.

“The letters went on to state that those alleged violations would be reported to TABC unless the business owner/operator agreed to pay $500 using an anonymous cash-card payment,” the release said.

TABC provided an example of a letter that said, in part: “We are very resourceful and will stop at nothing to make sure that your business is put on hold for investigation or shut down. Apart from the video evidence we gathered, two of your employees have also shared inside information against this place of business. Almost in an instant, men with black suits and local police will storm in and believe us, it won’t be beautiful.”

The letters “are in no way connected” to TABC, Monday’s statement said.

“Our Special Investigations Unit will be working closely with the U.S. Postal inspectors to get to the bottom of this,” said Robert Saenz, TABC Chief of Field Operations. “Mailed threats such as this fall under the federal government’s jurisdiction, which means these culprits could face federal charges when caught.”

Ryan Osborne: 817-390-7684, @RyanOsborneFWST