Episode 183: Keith Tolhurst – Arizona Extortion, Kidnapping and Maiming Plot

Retired agent Keith Tolhurst served in the FBI for 24 years. During his career, he investigated kidnappings, domestic terrorism, violent crimes, bank robberies, and fugitive matters. In this episode of FBI Retired Case File Review, he reviews an extortion case where the subjects threatened to kidnap and cut off the arm or leg of the 12-year-old son of an Arizona millionaire businessman unless he paid them $250,000. Through a series of phone calls and notes the scheme provided directions to the victim on where to drop the money. Frank Alber was arrested, convicted of conspiracy and mailing threatening communications and sentenced to 6 years in prison for the elaborate plot.

As the FBI Phoenix Division’s Senior SWAT team leader and SWAT Coordinator for the entire state of Arizona, Keith Tolhurst was involved in every aspect of crisis management to include: command post procedures, critical infrastructure threats, dignitary protection, special events, security assessments, and hostage situations. Keith was nominated for the medal of bravery for operations outside of the United States. He was a Principle Firearms and Tactical Instructor and designated as an FBI Master Police Instructor, providing firearms and tactics training around the world to thousands of students from international, military, state, local and tribal police agencies. After retiring from the FBI, Keith was employed as an independent contractor for the Bureau for seven years, providing classified and unclassified instruction to FBI agents related to advanced human intelligence. He is the founder of Tolhurst International, LLC a licensed Private Investigations firm that also provides security consultants, customizable training courses, and guest speaker services.

Keith was previously interviewed in episode 125 about the case of Grand Canyon prison escapee Danny Ray Horning, who led the FBI and law enforcement partners on the largest fugitive manhunt in Arizona.

Special Agent (Retired)

Keith Tolhurst

11/16/1987  – 10/16/2011







“They said if they kidnapped him they would keep him alive but they would amputate an arm or a leg because they wanted to make the millionaire regret for the rest of his life not paying the money.” —Keith Tolhurst

The following are links to news articles about the elaborate kidnapping and maiming plot investigated by Keith Tolhurst:

Arizona Republic – 2/22/1992:  Web_of_directions_helped_to_snare_extortion_suspects

Arizona Republic – 2/26/1992:  3rd_man_held_in_maim_plot Had threatened_to_harm_child;   3rd Man_cont.

Arizona Republic – 6/24/1993:  Mesa_man_given_6_years_in_extortion_try

Here’s an excerpt from the initial extortion letter:

“IF YOU VALUE YOUR SON’S LIFE . . . READ THE REST OF THIS LETTER!” it began. “You will pay us $250,000 in cash in one week or we will remove your son’s arm or leg. We use $250,000 as the base because this amount usually equates to the value of our client’s cars. The correlation here is a simple one: Do you value your son’s life or limbs more than your cars?”

The letter concluded, “LET THE GAME BEGIN!”

In 1998, under the name Marcus Giavanni, one of the subjects who was arrested but never indicted published Nelson vs. the United States of America: A System in Denial, a book claiming he was innocent and not involved in the plot.


Jerri Williams

View posts by Jerri Williams
Jerri Williams, a retired FBI agent, author and podcaster, attempts to relive her glory days by writing crime fiction and hosting FBI Retired Case File Review, a true crime podcast available for free subscription on Apple Podcast, Google Podcast, Spotify, and other popular podcast apps. Her nonfiction book FBI Myths and Misconceptions: A Manual for Armchair Detectives and her FBI corruption squad police procedural series featuring Special Agent Kari Wheeler are available wherever books are sold.

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