Olentangy Valley News

Swindle's false jury-duty fines catch residents off-guard

Police are tracking caller who told Powell residents they had to pay up

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

Police said a phone scammer started targeting Delaware County residents last week with a con involving jury-duty fines.

According to a news release from the city of Powell, a man posing as a court official contacted at least three city residents Feb. 5 and accused them of missing jury duty in the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas. The man then demanded between $500 and $825 in "fines" that had to be paid in the next few hours.

The scammer reportedly advised callers a judge could refund their payment if they made an appearance in court later.

Powell city spokeswoman Megan Canavan said one victim did transfer slightly more than $500 to the scammer. She said Powell police will work with financial institutions to attempt to find out more about the suspect.

"They're actively working on trying to track down where the money was sent to," Canavan said.

She said this scammer does not seem to be targeting senior citizens, unlike some other scams.

"They're targeting different age groups," Canavan said. "There really isn't any pattern we're seeing right now."

Tracy Whited, community relations officer for the Delaware County Sheriff's Office, said court officials reached out to the sheriff's office after multiple residents called the court to see if they actually owed a fine. She said the sheriff's office is reaching out to those individuals and launching an investigation.

Canavan said none of the other local law enforcement agencies Powell police checked with reported a scam involving jury duty targeting residents in their jurisdictions.

Delaware police Capt. Adam Moore said his department had not received reports of a jury-duty scam, but it had received similar complaints. He said a Delaware woman received a call recently from outside the country, and a scammer told her there was a warrant out for her arrest and that she must transfer a certain amount of money to make it go away.

Moore said anyone who receives a suspicious phone call from someone purporting to be affiliated with a law enforcement agency should take precautions.

"I would suggest that they graciously end the call and then contact their local law enforcement agency," he said.

Moore added that real law enforcement officers will be understanding if residents want to call a department's main dispatch to verify their identity before speaking with them.

The jury-duty scam isn't a new one. According to a June 2006 press release from the FBI, jury scams "have been around for years" but occasionally experience a resurgence in prominence.

Powell police advised residents not to give out personal information over the phone unless they initiated the call.

Canavan said the city had received no additional reports of the scam as of Monday afternoon, Feb. 10. She said anyone who received a similar call should call Powell police at 614-885-3374.

Comments