CADDO PARISH, La. (KTAL) – (4/22/19) The scammer calls random people and tells them they failed to respond to a summons for jury duty and an arrest warrant has been issued in their name, but if they hurry, they can make bond and won’t be arrested.
Caddo Parish Clerk of Court Mike Spence said the scammer tells the victim to go to a store and purchase a pre-paid credit card in amounts that have been as little as $500 and as much as $5,000.
The victim goes to the store and buys the card while the scammer remains on the line. The scammer tells the victim to save the receipt and then has victim to scratch off the back of the card and read the numbers to the caller.
After that is done, the caller is told to mail the card and the receipt to the Caddo Parish Clerk of Court, and the victim complies.
But, Spence said, as soon as the scammer gets the number on the back of the card, the money is withdrawn from the card, so it is empty when it arrives in his office.
Spence said recently, his office received 10 of the empty bank cards in one week’s time. He said this is not the first time the scam has been worked in Caddo Parish, but it will die down after a while, and then pop back up. He added it has been worked in several Louisiana parishes.
In 2018, the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office was dealing with the bogus jury duty claims, costing residents thousands of dollars, but was able to trace the scam to a gang inside a Georgia prison.
The scam has been around for several years, and is not just done on the state district court level. The Federal courts have been grappling with it for some time, according to the U.S. Justice Department.
Just ten days ago Peter Strasser, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana, announced that on April 10, 2019, 39-year-old Nicholas Rotunda Allen, an inmate in Jimmy Autry State Prison in Pelham, Georgia, had been charged for his role in perpetrating a grand jury fraud scam that victimized a Metairie man.
According to the Bill of Information, Allen used a contraband cell phone to contact the victim from inside the prison and pretending to be a deputy U.S. Marshal, said a warrant had been issued for the victim’s arrest. However, Allen told the victim, he could pay $5,500 fine and the warrant would be dismissed. The victim paid by buying 11 prepaid cards and gave the account numbers to Allen.
Last July, the Northern District of Georgia’s U.S. Attorney’s Office and U.S. District Court issued an alert concerning the Jury scam, saying it “has cost victims thousands of dollars.”
According to the press release, in reports received by the Georgia Northern District’s jury office, over the last two years, local citizens have given scammers anywhere from $400 to $13,000 out of fear that an arrest warrant had been issued due to their failure to appear for jury duty. Many of the victims took money out of their savings or retirement to pay the scammers.
One elderly gentleman reported that he had given all he had – $5,000 – and was fearful of what might happen to his wife, who suffers from dementia. On another occasion, a local teacher reported that she gave a scammer $1,200 because she was going through an adoption process and did not want anything that would interfere with her ability to adopt.
Victims commonly report that the scammers sound convincing and speak authoritatively.
The scammers may use real information about the victim and court addresses. They may also use the real names of law enforcement officers, court officials, and federal judges to make the scam appear more credible. They may even “spoof” the phone number on caller ID so that it falsely appears to be from the court or a government agency. In one reported instance, a scammer learned that a potential victim was getting married and threatened to cancel her wedding if she did not pay.
The Caddo Parish Sheriff’s Office urges residents who receive these calls to not engage with these callers. Hang up.