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'Kidnapping' That Scared Washington Heights Was Birthday Prank, Cops Say

By  Nigel Chiwaya and Ben Fractenberg | April 1, 2013 12:39pm | Updated on April 2, 2013 9:49am

WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — The brazen uptown abduction that alarmed residents and sent police searching for clues was actually just a birthday prank, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said Monday.

Friends had planned a surprise party for the birthday boy, but after he found out about it, they decided to up the ante by "kidnapping" him and then driving to a 26th birthday party in the Poconos, Kelly said at an unrelated press conference.

"The person that was supposed to be surprised by the party found out about it," Kelly said. "So then plan B was to kidnap him."

The "victim," Cristian Joe, had been walking with his friend Melody DeJesus near West 173rd and Haven Avenue about 7 p.m. Friday when a minivan pulled up alongside and out hopped Hamlet Pena and Julian Mann, who at gunpoint yanked them inside of a black van with tinted windows, the New York Post reported.

The van then sped off against traffic on Haven Avenue, police said previously.

Officers combed the area, going door-to-door asking residents for any information.

Police were tipped off to the hoax when one of the attendees came back from Pennsylvania only to find out police were mistook the birthday surprise as a real abduction.

"When one of the participants came home from the party and his mother was telling about the fact there was this hoax he goes to one of the news sites and he sees the film and realizes he was involved in this," Kelly said. "He calls our tips hotline and tells us about what happened."

Kelly joked that he hopes the friends stick with more simple birthday plans in the future.

"I just wish they'd use email next time."

No one has or will be arrested in the incident, the NYPD said.