Watch CBS News

The Hoax That Wasn't: FBI Says Denise Huskins Kidnapping Part Of Suspect's Grand 'Ocean's 11' Scheme

VALLEJO (CBS13) — It started as a kidnapping investigation, then police called it a hoax. Now the FBI is saying the kidnapping of Denise Huskins was a real event, and that a man has been arrested in connection with the case.

A 59-page criminal complaint was released on Monday with the news of Matthew Muller's arrest. It details him as a Harvard-educated former attorney who once taught at the prestigious school, but was disbarred earlier this year.

The 38-year-old is from Orangevale, and is a former Marine who suffers from Gulf War Syndrome and is bi-polar.

The FBI says Huskins' kidnapping was meant to be a trial run for much larger operations for a criminal group made up of highly educated men, targeting young couples in Vallejo, specifically on Mare Island.

The criminal complaint details the day Huskins and her boyfriend Aaron Quinn were allegedly drugged, and Huskins was kidnapped. Police were notified of Huskins' disappearance on March 23 by Quinn. The complaint says the couple was told "They would not be harmed and that it was only financial."

But Denise Huskins wasn't supposed to be the target. The affidavit says Muller's actual target was Quinn's former fiancee, but when the kidnappers realized their mistake, they decided to carry out the crime anyway.

The kidnappers allegedly demanded two payments of $8,500, a small amount as far as ransoms go. The report says the suspects didn't want to financially devastate the young couple, saying "the amount was chump change, but it was the training we were after. We needed a live fire exercise before taking on a hard target, to learn how people react and iron out all of the wrinkles."

Huskins was released, because the suspects were impressed by her strength in the face of adversity, the report states, quoting an email to the San Francisco Chronicle that reads:

"We feel feel deep remorse and horribly regret our slide into criminality. In particular, we are mortified of the impact it has had on victim F (Huskins). In what I suppose would be a case of reverse Stockholm syndrome, we were very impressed with the strength she showed and who she was as we passed the time talking to her."

The suspects also expressed outrage at the Vallejo Police Department for calling the crime a hoax. Vallejo Police released few details the day after her disappearance, culminating with a March 24 press conference where spokesman Lt. Kenny Park answered most questions with some variation of "I can't go into those specifics," with visible frustration building with each answer.

On March 25, Huskins was found safe at her father's home in Huntington Beach, more than 400 miles from Vallejo. The Chronicle reportedly received an email from the kidnappers detailing where Hukins was released, and a voice recording of a woman believed to be Huskins.

Later that day, Park announced Vallejo Police were treating the incident as a hoax, with the threat of criminal charges looming for Huskins and Quinn. He said Huskins agreed to fly on a jet to Vallejo to answer questions, but they hadn't received contact from her in the hours since she was found.

Park called the incident "a wild goose chase", saying, "Mr. Quinn and Ms. Huskins have plundered valuable resources away from our community, and have taken focus away from the true victims of our community while instilling fear amongst our community members," he said. "So if anything, it's Mr. Quinn and Ms. Huskins that owe this community an apology."

EXCLUSIVE: Denise Huskins' Uncle Blasts Police Handling Of Alleged Kidnapping Hoax

On Monday, lawyers for Huskins and Quinn made their own demand for an apology, saying the Vallejo Police Department rushed to judgement. They went on to say because police didn't take their story seriously and search for kidnappers, the suspects were able to stay on the streets and commit another violent act on a different couple in Alameda County months later.

"Had the Vallejo PD fulfilled their obligation to protect public safety, not to re-victimize a victim, that they would have prevented the violence that occurred to this couple in Dublin," said Huskins' attorney Douglas Rappaport.

The case the lawyers referred to was the one Muller was originally arrested for in June.

Police called that a invasion in Dublin where Muller allegedly entered the home and fought with the homeowner for about four minutes and ran away. He reportedly left his cell phone at scene, which allowed detectives to track him down to South Lake Tahoe, where he was arrested. Police also found Huskins' stolen vehicle that had evidence inside from the kidnapping and a GPS device that showed a trip to Huntington Beach.

The couple did not speak to reporters on Monday to preserve the integrity of the case, their lawyers said.

Asked about a possible lawsuit against Vallejo Police, the lawyers said it would be up to their clients and that would be handled by different attorneys.

This wasn't the first time that attorneys had spoken out vociferously about the Vallejo Police Department's handling of the case. On March 26, Quinn's attorney Dan Russo said his client had been drugged and submitted to tests to verify it. Later that day, Rapport held his own press conference, saying Huskins "was a victim of a very serious assault." He said the incident made her to come forward, but "has fully cooperated with law enforcement with the hope of clearing her name."

Huskins' uncle echoed in a March 26 text message what he told CBS13 in an exclusive interview the night before: "I predict that by tomorrow the police will have changed their tune entirely and maybe even apologize if they have any professionalism whatsoever."

The Vallejo Police Department declined to comment on Monday's developments, referring all questions to the FBI.

Monday's report describes the suspects refer to themselves as "Ocean's 11-type gentlemen criminals." They also claim they never used a gun, but instead a water pistol painted black with a laser attached.

Evidence gathered in the Muller arrest included goggles in his South Lake Tahoe home with blonde hair still attached. Huskins, who has blonde hair, says she was forced to wear goggles the entire time she was being held.

Emails in the affidavit detail the number of crimes the suspects' allegedly committed against people living on Mare Island. They had several exceptions for targets, including those with children, medium to large dogs, those who are over 55, a member of the military or a military veteran.

Anyone with information is urged to call the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.