Police broke up a phone scam in Georgia, aimed squarely at North Texas, that originated in a Georgia prison. The result is that the Flower Mound Police Department closed 53 officer impersonation cases Wednesday. Each of the cases involved inmates using a Flower Mound officer's name in an attempt to extort money from a resident through what's known as a "jury scam."
"Suspects randomly called potential victims, identified themselves as Flower Mound Police Officers, and told them they owed money for a red light ticket or missed a jury summons," the FMPD said in a press release. "The suspects ordered the victims to go to local stores and purchase pre-paid cash cards, threatening arrest and jail time if the victims failed to comply. After the victim purchased the cash card, the suspects had the victim read the card numbers and the cash would be transferred to the suspect. Total monetary loss from Flower Mound victims totaled $5,915.80."
According to the FBI, the inmates were able to make the calls on cell phones smuggled into 11 prisons across the state. The corrections officers believed they were helping a drug ring, and would receive compensation later. Forty-five current and former officers with the Georgia Department of Corrections have been arrested.
“It’s troubling that so many officers from state correctional institutions across Georgia were willing to sell their badges for personal payoffs from purported drug dealers,” U.S. Attorney John Horn said in a statement. “They not only betrayed the institutions they were sworn to protect, but they also betrayed the ideals that thousands of honest, hard-working correctional officers uphold every day.”
According to police, the inmates running the scheme spoofed numbers to make it appear to the people they were calling that their calls were coming from Flower Mound. Only five Flower Mound residents bit and gave the inmates the prepaid cash card pins the inmates said would erase their debts.
"The Flower Mound Police reminds everyone that no government entity, local, state, or federal, will ever solicit payment over the phone," the department said. "Pre-paid cash card pin numbers are the same as cash once they’re given out. They cannot be traced or recovered. Many criminals sound very convincing and will use tactics such as looking up information familiar to you in your area to gain credibility."
The officers were busted when they allegedly agreed to protect non-existing drug deals suggested by undercover officers. In addition to the 45 current and former officers arrested, 85 additional arrests of inmates and civilians were made.
"It's a triumph for us," FMPD spokesman Wess Griffin said in a press release, "but it's also a chance for us to continue warning residents to be on the alert for scams."