The first letters were wrapped in white ribbons so they could be recycled by the alleged victims as a silent but telltale sign they would comply with demands to give up thousands of dollars.
A green ribbon adorned a two-page handwritten letter addressed to another Raymond Terrace business, which allegedly made similar threats if they failed to pass on details of where and when the extortion money should be paid.
And then there were the red ribbons, tied to trees to show where pots were buried under nearby mulch – the money pots where the cash was to be placed.
But detectives will allege the elaborate scheme, which also included targeting an innocent family by threatening to destroy the kneecaps of one of the children, ended up tying the suspect in knots.
The man, 26, is facing a series of extortion charges after being arrested at 2.10am on Wednesday as he checked the mailbox belonging to the Raymond Terrace family in the hope they had paid the $800 he had demanded in a series of crude and threatening messages.
Police facts tendered during a bail application alleged the suspect, who has not been required to enter a plea, had admitted to sending the letters, but only after he had received an “instructional letter” from “unknown persons” threatening him if he didn’t go through with the scheme.
The facts allege that two Raymond Terrace businesses received threatening letters on December 5 – one demanding $4000 and the other $3000 – and warned them not to contact police.
Instead, the alleged victims were to tie the white ribbons, which were attached to the letters, to the front of their businesses to show they were complying and wait for “additional instructions”.
Both businesses immediately reported the letters to detectives and were told to follow the extortionist’s instructions.
Three days later, another Raymond Terrace business received two letters with a green ribbon attached.
The facts alleged the first letter demanded the owners deliver the second letter to one of the initial extortion targets before placing the green ribbon on their own front door to show it was done.
That business also rang the authorities before going along with the demands.
The court heard the second letter told one of the victims to attend a location on the remote Ash Island at Hexham by 7pm the following day, where they would find a pink ribbon tied around a tree down a dirt track.
They were to place $3000 in the pot which was buried next to the marked tree.
Police surveillance would show a suspect had turned up on December 10 – the day after the cash was to be placed – and check the tree before leaving.
The facts alleged that on Monday the other targeted business received their second letter ordering them to take $4000 to a fishing spot near the intersection of Newline Road and Beaton Avenue, Raymond Terrace and place it in a pot next to the tree carrying a pink ribbon.
The investigation was hurried along after a Raymond Terrace family were also allegedly targeted.
The facts sheet alleges that on December 11, a woman took a phone call where she was told to “check your f—ing mailbox” before discovering a letter demanding $800 and calling police.
On Tuesday morning, two days after the first letter, the family discovered a second letter which read: “I don’t like smart arse c— like you! Money there tonight or your son [name withheld] will need 2 new f—en knee caps for christmas. You think I’m joking just try me.”
The suspect was arrested checking the family’s letter box at 2.10am the following morning.
The police facts alleged the suspect admitted “receiving, reading, wrapping with ribbon them delivering the mentioned letters of demand”.
He also allegedly admitted leaving letters at three other businesses as well as attending the “cash drop locations”.
But he alleged he only did so “out of fear of the unknown persons”.
He was granted strict conditional bail to appear in court again next month.
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