A Columbia County sheriff’s deputy calling to ask for cash to avoid arresting you for not showing up for jury duty is no deputy, authorities say.
It is a scam to get money from unsuspecting residents.
“You hear of all kinds of other kinds of scams,” sheriff’s Capt. Steve Morris said. “There’s thousands of different scams. It is the first time I can recall they (claim to be) from the Columbia County Sheriff’s office.”
Three residents told authorities Tuesday that they received calls from someone identifying himself as Captain Kemp or Captain Kim with the sheriff’s Office Warrants Division. A 51-year-old Evans woman said the caller told her a warrant was issued for her arrest because she missed jury duty. He told the woman she needed to pay a $451 fine and a $298 retainer fee to be assigned a new court date, according to a sheriff’s office incident report.
“Once the warrant is issued, we serve the warrant,” Morris said. “There’s no paying your way out of it.”
The caller told the woman to purchase MoneyPak Green Dot cash cards and provide him with the numbers on the cards. The caller stayed on the phone with the woman as she went to a local Wal-Mart, Dollar Store and Dollar General to buy the card, according to the report.
Once the woman bought the card, she provided the caller the numbers and he informed her she had a May 12 court date before Judge Scott Allen, who doesn’t exist in the county. The woman said she tried to call the “deputy” back after the transaction, but he didn’t answer.
“I think I can speak for the sheriff’s office and any Columbia County government office – that’s not the way we do business,” Morris said.
“You never pay a fine. You never pay restitution. You never pay for anything over the phone.”
A second woman said she fell for a similar ruse. The 40-year-old woman provided the caller with the codes for a $351 and $492 Green Dot cards because the caller said she was to be arrested for missing a grand jury subpoena, according to the report. The woman said she tried to bring the funds to “Kemp” and his partner in person, but was told she’d be arrested if she showed up at the jail before paying the fines.
Another woman called authorities Tuesday after a similar call made her suspicious. The 50-year-old Evans woman said she got a call from someone claiming to be Capt. Kemp with Columbia County Warrants Division. The caller said the woman’s husband had an outstanding warrant for missing a grand jury subpoena, according to the report. The caller and his partner, “Lt. Trent Davis,” told the woman she needed to pay a retainer fee to keep her husband out of jail. She said the men told her to get a $452 cash card to cover a warrant waiver and another $369 for the processing fee, according to the report.
The caller insisted the cards be purchased immediately to avoid her husband’s arrest. The woman said she became suspicious and called the Clerk of Court’s office and verified the information wasn’t true, according to the report.
The scam isn’t a new one, but it’s the first time Morris said he can recall that the caller posed as a Columbia County Sheriff’s Office employee.
County Clerk of Court Cindy Mason said her office has gotten a few calls from concerned residents and as have her colleagues from across the state.
Mason said to be wary of anyone calling about a resident missing jury duty if they’ve received no summons or subpoena from her office.
If someone does miss jury duty, Mason said her office would send a letter or call to find out why they didn’t appear when summoned.
“They could get a call to find out what their issue was for not appearing,” Mason said. “To say that they are having to pay anything, we never do that.”
Mason said anyone receiving calls residents are suspicious of should call her office to verify the information at (706) 312-7139.
Morris also suggested being suspicious of any caller asking for money, especially through a prepaid card service.
“It is one thing to trust,” Morris said. “But if you’re going to trust, verify.”