Detectives: Extortion scheme used teens as collectors

FRESNO, Calif.

The alleged crimes have been happening for months in Cutler and Orosi in the South Valley. Detectives say they actually watched a woman use a 14-year-old kid to collect on an illegal loan. They followed the trail from there to a home where the evidence piled up.

A loud dog and a locked fence keep trespassers off the isolated Tulare County property, but a search warrant gave detectives full access earlier this week.

Deputies had just arrested /*Sandra Cisneros*/ and they say her home was holding critical evidence of her criminal activity, including financial records tying her to illegal loans and extortion.

But that wasn't all. "We were able to locate an amount of processed marijuana as well, so we are investigating whether the issues are drug-related, whether they're gang-related," said Sgt. Chris Douglass of the Tulare County sheriff's Office.

Deputies say Cisneros and the /*Cabrera*/ brothers -- /*Gustavo*/ and /*Adrian*/ -- extorted money from several small businesses in the Cutler-Orosi area. Two business owners told Action News they were too scared to talk on camera, but they said newer business owners are often targets for extortion by gang members. If they don't pay a protection fee, their businesses might get tagged with graffiti or employees might get attacked.

Investigators wouldn't confirm if that's what the three suspects arrested this week were doing. "There were certain types of intimidation going on and as far as threats, I don't want to go into exactly what those were," Sgt. Douglass said.

Detectives believe there are more victims, and they're hoping those people come forward. When they served the warrant, they took Cisneros' kids away from her home, but neighbors say the children are still going to school. She is now out of custody, but the Cabreras are still in jail.

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