Frank Salvador Solorza, 46, of Redwood City, CA, was convicted this week of conspiracy, impersonating an immigration officer and attempted extortion. What makes the case particularly heinous is that the victims were members of his own family. What makes it particularly hilarious is that he was dressed as a clown and riding a tiny bicycle when he committed the crime.
Here's how the scam went down: In February 2009, a family of Mexican immigrants began receiving letters from a fake government immigration agency. The letters demanded $50,000 in cash, in exchange for which their "[immigration] papers will be good forever" and they wouldn't face deportation.
The family was instantly suspicious and alerted the authorities. Solorza, a cousin of theirs, had been "oddly asking them, as recent as two weeks ago, about when their 'green cards' were going to expire," and they suspected he might be behind the correspondences. Soon after, the family began to receive a series of phone calls instructing them on the money drop — but officers from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement were listening in.
And then came the big day:
Solorza was arrested after he arrived on a child's bicycle — while dressed in a clown suit, a clown glitter wig and a Pirates of the Caribbean hat (complete with dreadlocks.
At first, Scammy the Clown said he was put up to the crime by members of the Norteño gang. It was a claim the authorities found hard to swallow:
"Norteños always dress in their colors; they don't use disguises, let alone engage in crimes wearing clown suits," Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kevin Barry and Denise Marie Barton wrote in a sentencing memo filed in U.S. District Court in Oakland.
Solorza begins his sentence in 45 days: He'll have three long years to contemplate his crimes, with at least one stretch in solitary clownfinement for hiding a shiv in his boutonniere. Honk. [SFGate, Hispanically Speaking News, photo via Shutterstock]