Man arrested in plot to torture investor

Sacramento Bee/May 12, 2005
By Mareva Brown

A Sacramento man who agreed to abduct and torture an overseas investor on behalf of a man hired by 19 clients was arrested after he solicited the help of an undercover sheriff's detective, law enforcement officials said Wednesday.

The plot, thwarted on the eve it was supposed to have been carried out, was designed to elicit the investor's overseas account numbers and his personal identification number so the clients could retrieve millions of dollars they had invested, Sacramento County sheriff's officials said.

The investor's clients are members of an international church [called Miracle of Love], described in Internet chat rooms as a cult, that requires members to relieve themselves of their worldly possessions. Instead of turning them over to the church or charitable organizations, investigators believe, the investor's clients apparently were trying to hide their possessions in unmarked overseas accounts.

The intended victim, a financial investment adviser from Oregon, is not being named by officials because they are continuing to investigate the case. He acknowledged to detectives that he had made "bad investments" and had gotten "greedy," according to Sacramento Sheriff's Detective Mike Wright. Wright, who went undercover to pose as an accomplice to the planned abduction, was tipped to the plan by a Sacramento private investigator who said he had been contacted by a former business colleague - Kevin Westman - for help in an abduction.

The private investigator, who is described only as a confidential informant in case papers, introduced Wright to Westman and then set up several telephone conversations so the three could plan out the specifics of the kidnapping planned for April 22.

Westman, 41, said he had been hired by a San Diego private investigator, William Lindsay Calder, 52, to kidnap the Oregon man and take him to a "safe house" where he would be tortured by the three men in an attempt to get information from him, Wright said.

Calder allegedly gave specific instructions on how to bind the intended victim, with duct tape, and how to immobilize him with a stun gun. Westman and Calder face charges of soliciting to commit a crime when they appear in court on Tuesday.

They are being held in Sacramento County jail in lieu of $1 million bail.

"(Westman) said he was working with a group of mercenaries from San Diego who were working with the investors and they were working to recover the money," Wright said. "He described methods of torture and ways of extracting information from the intended victim," including a polygraph machine and a shocking device.

The financial adviser was expected to drive from his Oregon home to visit his daughter in San Diego, stopping in Sacramento to meet with a woman who had been trying to get her money back from him, Wright said.

The woman, although a member of the same church, was not among the 19 investors who hired Calder. The Oregon man also was a longtime member of the church, Wright said.

"I don't think she knowingly set him up because she's been trying to have meetings with our victim for months," Wright said. And he's been putting her off because he doesn't have any of (her) paperwork anymore, and he's not going to give her back the money."

Westman told his accomplices that they would be holding their would-be victim for about seven hours - until "an information extraction team" arrived from San Diego to take charge of the man.

On April 21, hours before the plot was to be set in motion, Wright and other detectives arrested Westman and searched his home. A day later, a special investigations team with the San Diego County Sheriff's Department arrested Calder in front of his home.

Last week, Wright and other investigators searched Calder's San Diego home and found information that reportedly linked him to the plot. Wright said that 17 of the 19 investors live outside the United States, but he would not describe any of them in further detail.

Among the letters officials have is one from Calder to the Oregon man saying he knew there were 98 victims of his embezzlement and that he represented 19 of them.

The man told detectives that Calder had been contacting him since 2002. Wright said the 19 investors are not considered suspects in the case because it is unclear if they knew what methods Calder was using to try to get the money back.

"We get calls all the time with stuff like this, which is pretty much unbelievable," Wright said. "But this turned out to be factual all the way down the line.... It's all James Bond."

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