Criminals love Michael Rodriguez. This past June, the thin and naive 18-year-old Cash-a-Check employee was duped into giving away a bag filled with $26,000. Con artists promised the money would go to his boss's wife. It went into their pockets instead. "They were so smart and slick," he told Riptide back then. "It's like one of those movies."
Now he feels extra-bullied. The morning of July 10, Rodriguez was again alone at work when the phone rang. A man with a harsh voice was on the other line. "I know who you are!" he screamed. "And I know where you live!" The caller then told the teenager to gather all the money in the safe and place it on the sidewalk in front of the shop on Biscayne Boulevard at 137th Street. If Rodriguez disobeyed, he would "blow him and the building up," according to a North Miami Beach Police report. Just look outside, the caller threatened -- bombs are "at the front and rear of the building."
Rodriguez hung up and nervously peeked out of a glass door at the building's entrance. There it was: a suspicious cardboard box wrapped in black tape. He called the cops, who showed up in minutes. They too believed the package was an "explosive device," so they "evacuated the businesses" on both sides of the street. Officers also shut down Biscayne Boulevard for about an hour. Later, a Miami-Dade bomb squad determined it was a false alarm.
Last Friday, Rodriguez was at the drab business alone again. He leaned forward from behind a shield of glass and looked thoughtful. "I think they read your article," he told Riptide. "They probably thought I was going to get fooled again."
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