Teens jailed in Sullivan County abduction hoax, charged with extortion

Rain Smith • Oct 11, 2012 at 11:28 AM

Two teens have been arrested in Sullivan County after allegedly attempting to extort one of their family members, claiming an abduction had occurred and they needed $15,000 for safe release from their captor.

After approximately seven hours and multiple phone calls and text messages — which lowered the ransom price to $2,500 — a meeting place for the cash exchange was agreed upon. But police were waiting at the drop off along Eastern Star Road, taking both the scheming "kidnapper" and "victim" into custody.

They allegedly admitted to investigators they had been working in cahoots throughout the ordeal, with one suspect wanted for a similar incident which targeted an uncle the day before.

Jesse McClellan Robinson, 19, of 450 Fordtown Road, Kingsport, and Zachary T. Marshall, 19, of Russellville, Tenn., have been charged with extortion in the Wednesday incident. Just before 3 p.m. the Sullivan County Sheriff's Office received a call from Robinson's sister, with an affidavit describing her as, "very frightened."

She told police she had not seen her brother in three days, according to court records, but had just received a call demanding $15,000 if she wanted to avoid him being harmed. While SCSO investigators were at the woman's home in Kingsport she allegedly received several text messages and phone calls from the same man. He reportedly lowered his asking price to $2,500, demanding the cash be brought to the Morristown exit of Interstate 81.

The affidavit stats that during those subsequent exchanges Robinson's sister recognized the caller's voice: Zachary Marshall, a friend of her purportedly abducted brother. Police then directed her to call Marshall's cell phone, with him allegedly stating he would pay the $2,500 to the abductor — but she would have to pay him back.

Police say the sister told Marshall that wouldn't be necessary, as she had already went to the bank to obtain the funds. Shortly thereafter Robinson allegedly called his sister, saying he was on his way home. At approximately 7:15 p.m. Robinson called his grandmother to again state he was on his way, according to police, but no contact was made until another phone call some two hours later.

In this communication Robinson allegedly directed his sister come to Phil's Dream Pit, 534 Eastern Star Road, with cash in tow. At approximately 10 p.m. SCSO officers located Robinson and Marshall in a parking lot near the restaurant, sitting in a Honda Accord.

They reportedly signed a waiver and admitted to attempting to obtain money from Marshall's sister and grandmother, purposely leading them to believe an abduction had occurred and ransom money was needed.

An affidavit states Sullivan County investigators spoke with a detective at the Washington County, Tenn., Sheriff's office, where a warrant had been obtained for Robinson. He allegedly attempted to obtain money from an uncle in their jurisdiction in a similar fashion, on the previous day.

Both Robinson and Marshall were charged with extortion in Sullivan County and booked into jail.

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