Digital evidence leads to additional charges in extortion, terrorizing investigation

Published 4:23 pm Friday, February 23, 2024

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VIDALIA, La. — A Vidalia man charged with terrorizing a family for money faces additional charges after new evidence indicates he broke into another victim’s home and made text threats for photos.

Nathaniel Matus Lopez, 23, was arrested on a warrant on Feb. 16 at his Charles Street residence. The arrest came after a complaint of an alleged extortion and terrorization of five victims, which had been ongoing for nearly a year.

As part of the investigation, electronic devices were seized and logged into evidence. 

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After further analysis, evidence involving another victim was recovered.

Authorities said Lopez had contacted the victim via text message and made threats if the victim didn’t provide him with certain photos he requested. 

Additionally, the victim reported seeing Lopez drive by the victim’s house on a regular basis and that Lopez had sent photos of the outside of the house during early morning hours. 

On one occasion, a threatening letter was left outside the house while the victim was not at home with photos of personal items taken inside the victim’s bedroom, showing that he had been inside the residence.

Lopez was rebooked Thursday with new charges including: extortion by sextortion, where a person is tricked into sending nude images and then victimized by threatening to share the images unless the victim meets demands; stalking; cyberstalking; terrorizing; menacing and simple burglary.

Initially, Lopez had been charged with extortion, terrorizing and felony theft by fraud related to at least five victims, including school-age children. The victims reportedly received death threats if the money was not paid. One victim reportedly paid Lopez more than $160,000 in cash, authorities said.

During the execution of a search warrant on Feb. 16, authorities seized more than $30,000 worth of firearms and ammunition, a 2018 Ford F-150, cash in the form of new $100 bills, bank cards and numerous electronic devices — all of which are thought to have been obtained using extorted funds.

The exchange was initiated when Lopez allegedly solicited funds from the victim pretending the funds would help children who were being trafficked near the Mexican border.

After initially giving money for that cause, Lopez allegedly changed the story and convinced the victim that unless payments continued, the entire family would be executed by a drug cartel.

Lopez’s alleged terrorizing actions consisted of shining lasers into the victim’s home at night and making electronic threats of physical harm and following the victim’s children and intimidating them in public.

This investigation remains ongoing, as additional evidence is still being recovered. 

Anyone with information or potential victims can contact CPSO at 318-437-0740 or submit a tip using the CPSO mobile app.