Scam calls coming from Georgia prisons; EBRSO warning potential victims
BATON ROUGE - The East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office has a warning about an outrageous phone scam that people continue to fall for.
They say a group called the Ghostface Gangsters are pulling off big heists from behind prison fences and they're targeting people in Baton Rouge.
It's known as the jury scam and EBRSO is working multiple cases in which a caller poses as a member of law enforcement and tells the victim that they've missed federal jury duty and can avoid arrest by paying a fine. EBRSO says it's investigated over 40 cases and about $80,000 lost to the scam since 2017.
EBRSO Detective Corporal Perry Frith has been investigating the scam for the last year and a half. He says while the calls target people around the country, it has a focus in the Baton Rouge area.
"Probably because they're having so much success, people are falling for it in our area," Frith said.
The sheriff's office says the scammer typically advises the victim to purchase a gift card and read the card number over the phone. They often provide the victim with the address to the sheriff's office in an attempt to sound credible. Sometimes the scammer is using an EBRSO deputy's name, knows the judge on duty, or the victim's actual address.
Some stores have posted signs warning people about the scam in the gift card section, but Frith says the scam has legs that don't show signs of slowing down.
"They're actually coming from state prisons in Georgia," he said.
The scammers are inmates. Through Frith's investigation, he's been able to track most of the calls to Jimmy Autry Correctional Institute in Pelham, GA, which is about 470 miles from Baton Rouge.
"Each time they do a sweep over there, they can get over 100 phones per day," he said.
The inmates are gathering information just like everyone else; on the Internet, using apps to change their phone numbers and make the calls appear local.
Frith says the Ghostface Gangsters is a very organized crime ring in Georgia prisons, which are run by law enforcement.
"They're involved in a lot of other facets of crime, this is only one piece of what they're doing," he said. "This helps funds their operations."
Frith says the group's operations include laundering money, drugs and more serious crimes like putting hits out on people. The scammers are often relentless.
The sheriff's office is warning people not to fall for it, saying no law enforcement agency will every require money over the phone. If you've been a victim or received a call like this, contact your local law enforcement agency.
You can contact EBRSO at 225-389-5009.