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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

3 Face Jail in Ransom Scam for Missing Baby

Posing as the missing baby's kidnappers, the men demanded $480,000 ransom.

Police have arrested three people in Belarus who they allege staged a hoax designed to extort a ransom for a baby who disappeared in Moscow earlier this year.

Russian media in March gave massive attention to the case of Yegor Nisevich, then 4 weeks old, who was snatched from his carriage outside a gynecological hospital in Moscow's Sokolniki district. Yegor's mother, who had left the carriage outside, committed suicide a few days later by throwing herself out of an eight-story apartment building.

Russian police said that the three Belarussians, arrested Sunday in the city of Gomel, pretended to have kidnapped the baby and tried to trick a television station into paying them a $480,000 ransom.

Igor Abushenko, 30, one of those arrested, learned about the abduction from an NTV television program Kriminal which covers crime and had launched a campaign to help find the baby, according to Kirill Mazurin, a spokesman for the Moscow Criminal Investigation Department.

Police said Abushenko then wrote two hoax letters to the program in which he used guesswork to describe the baby's birthmarks and demanded a ransom, to be paid in Gomel. He asked that certain code phrases be pronounced on air as a sign that the deal was on.

NTV chose to ignore the letters but Andrei Kaloshin, an intern working for Kriminal, contacted Moscow police.

An undercover female police officer met one of Abushenko's accomplices, unemployed Oksana Gusarova, 30, and handed over the first half of the sum, police said.

Abushenko and Ivan Antin, 32, later met Gusarova in a motorboat at the bank of the Pripyat River. The three were then arrested.

They face five to 15 years in jail for fraud, according to Vladimir Yatsukhno, an investigator at the Gomel police department in charge of the case.

"The man [who did it] doesn't realize that even if he managed to get rich on somebody else's grief, this money wouldn't have done him any good," Mazurin said. "Poverty makes people commit crimes but doesn't excuse them."

Mazurin said police did not think that the extortionists were connected to Nisevich's abduction. He said investigators were exploring several other theories.

For example, the boy may have been snatched by a gang providing childless families in Russia and abroad with healthy babies. Alternatively, homeless people could have stolen him to sell or use in begging.

So far, the Nisevich abduction is the only such case known to the Moscow police, according to Mazurin.

Nikolai Nikolayev, director of the Kriminal program, said he had not seen the letters and the decision to contact police was taken by the intern Kaloshin.

Nikolayev criticized Kaloshin for going to the police. He said he believed Kaloshin, who in the past owned a private detective firm that searched for kidnap victims, was working for the police.

"We felt we were turning into a police organ," he added. Kaloshin was immediately fired by NTV for "violation of professional ethics."

A police spokesman denied Kaloshin was working for police.