The man sent messages to his family in which he pretended to be kidnapped, and also provided staged photographs that made it look like he had been beaten and suffered facial injuries.
His family made several payments in order to secure his "release", Spain's national police said. After being alerted by Interpol, agents were able to confirm that the person receiving the payments was actually the supposed victim.
The investigation started when the Spanish branch of Interpol was informed about a family in Argentina that had reported the kidnapping of one of their relatives in León, Spain. The family received messages through Whatsapp with audio files, and images of their relative, who had apparently been beaten and suffered facial injuries.
The family then decided to make several payments, sending them to post offices in León in an effort to secure his freedom. When plainclothes police officers in the Spanish city went to observe the collection of a further payment, they were able to confirm that the person receiving the money was the supposed victim, who had no visible injuries.
At the same time, officers were also able to observe the man making a fresh call to his relatives in which he claimed he was "suffering greatly".
He was subsequently detained and had his mobile telephone, 1,285 euros in cash and two receipts from a wire transfer company seized.