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Santa Rosa man arrested in attempted extortion of high schooler

Sonoma County sheriff’s deputies arrested an 18-year-old Santa Rosa man who found a high school student’s missing cellphone and is suspected of trying to extort $100 from her under threat of something “bad” happening, authorities said.

The 16-year-old girl alerted law enforcement instead, and deputies figured out who was threatening her. When she arranged to meet him Tuesday and make payment, deputies were waiting and made an arrest, the sheriff’s office said.

The suspect, Biniam Kennedy Gereamliak, had the phone with him, so it could be returned to its owner, authorities said.

The girl apparently had lost it during a Halloween party over the weekend. She later received threatening online messages from someone “claiming she needed to pay them or bad things would happen,” sheriff’s Sgt. Spencer Crum said in a prepared statement.

Gereamliak was arrested for suspected conspiracy, extortion by use of fear, possession of stolen property and contribution to the delinquency of a minor - two felonies and two misdemeanor counts, authorities said.

He was booked into the Sonoma County Jail Tuesday night and remained in custody Wednesday, with bail of $10,000.

You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan at 707-521-5249 or mary.callahan@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @MaryCallahanB.

Mary Callahan

Environment and Climate Change, The Press Democrat

I am in awe of the breathtaking nature here in Sonoma County and am so grateful to live in this spectacular region we call home. I am amazed, too, by the expertise in our community and by the commitment to protecting the land, its waterways, its wildlife and its residents. My goal is to improve understanding of the issues, to find hope and to help all of us navigate the future of our environment. 

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