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Newton County woman avoids falling prey to court scam

COVINGTON — One Newton County woman was the target of a popular jury duty scam, but she contacted the Sheriff’s Office before it could go any further.

The woman called the Newton County Sheriff’s Office after she received a phone call Thursday afternoon from a man claiming to be “Lt. Sims” with the Newton County Warrants Division. According to the incident report filed by the Sheriff’s Office, the number “Lt. Sims” called from was identified as “Newton County” and showed as 678-625-1400, which is the Sheriff’s Office main number.

The suspect told the woman that she had missed court with Superior Court Judge Samuel Ozburn the day before and had to pay “fines and restitution” in the amount of $349.

“The suspect instructed her to get a prepaid card for the amount listed and use the scratch-off number on the back and call him at (a different number),” the incident report states.

NCSO Sgt. Dale Shirley told the victim not to contact the suspect at the number he provided, but if he did call back, not to let him know that she reported the incident to the Sheriff’s Office.

Several residents in Rockdale County recently reported that they had also been the target of a similar scam.

According to the Rockdale County Sheriff’s Office reports and comments from victims, the scammers used essentially the same script with each of them. The caller identified himself as either “Lt. John Martin” or “Capt. Larry Truitt.” The callers knew their would-be victims’ addresses and provided them phone numbers to call back. One potential victim said she called the number given, which was answered by a female who answered, “Sheriff’s Office, how can I help you,” the incident report states.

They told their victims that they had missed jury or grand jury duty a few weeks earlier and would have to pay a fine to avoid arrest. In at least one instance, the scammers told the victim that Rockdale County Superior Court Judge Robert Mumford would be issuing a warrant for her arrest if she didn’t pay the “fine.” They were all told to remain on the phone with the scammers until the transactions were completed.

“This is an ongoing battle we’re fighting,” said NCSO Investigator Jeff Alexander. “It’s very, very difficult to trace these things back.”

He said the public should be aware that the Sheriff’s Office does not collect money via Green Dot cards or over the telephone. If anyone has an issue or a question about a potential warrant, they should contact the Sheriff’s Office.

Alexander said the suspect in the recent Newton County case never contacted his potential victim again.

“That seems to be the way they operate. They try one, and if they get a nibble, they’ll keep trying with that person, otherwise they’ll move on to the next potential victim,” he said. “They may make 100 calls a day, and if they get two, they’re making a profit.”