Entries in Phone Scam (3)


Florida Inmates Accused of Making Money By Scamming Jail Phone System

Lake County Jail(TAVARES, Fla.) -- Some clever inmates at the Lake County Jail in Florida figured out a money-making scheme by allegedly scamming the jail's phone system. One inmate even made enough to post bond and get out of jail.

Inmate Larry Stone, in jail since April for property crime charges, noticed something unusual when he went to make a phone call on July 7. He dialed the number he wanted to call, but when the call went unanswered, he noticed that double the amount of money was returned to his account.

Stone, 32, allegedly spent the next three hours making 77 incomplete phone calls to local, long-distance and international numbers and raked in over $1,250, according to a report by the Lake County Sheriff's office. The amount was enough for him to post bond and leave the jail with a check for $50.69 from leftover money.

Soon after, other inmates started making a blizzard of incomplete calls. During the day, 256 inmate accounts were affected, according to the sheriff's report.

Jail officials, however, noticed the unusual phone activity.

"The jail's IT department noticed an unusual amount of phone calls being placed, all of which were incomplete," said Lt. John Herrell, spokesman for the Lake County Jail. "When we found out about it, we were shocked. We're not really sure how the word spread, but it was definitely going around and people were jumping on the bandwagon."

The jail alerted Global Tel*Link, the phone company that provides the jail's phone service, and the problem was quickly fixed.

Officials said the two servers had mistakenly been turned on to manage the system's transactions, instead of the usual single server.

The rates for inmate phone calls from the jail are $2.58 for local calls, $13.85 for long distance calls and $23.68 for international calls. So, if an inmate dialed a call and hung up before an answer or went unanswered, twice the amount would be credited back to their account.

One of the numbers Stone was dialing was a distribution center for Narcotics Anonymous in Ontario, Canada. Stone allegedly made $47.36 each time he called this number.

Stone's freedom did not last long. After a day out of jail, he knew police were looking for him and turned himself in. He is now being charged with grand theft and scheming with the intent to defraud. These charges are separate from his previous charges and he could possibly be facing additional jail time.

Inmate Kevin Tomlinson, 18, was in the process of posting his own $1,400 bond when the jail figured out the scheme and put a stop to his release.

Herrell said that four or five inmates who also participated in the scheme received checks when being transferred to other correctional facilities, but all of the checks were recovered.

Since Stone is the only inmate who cashed a check, he is currently the only one facing additional charges from the jail.

The jail's contract with Global Tel*Link expires at the end of August and they are exploring other options for phone service providers.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Costa Rican Man Indicted in US Phone Scam Case

Courtesy - Getty Images(MIAMI) -- A federal grand jury Tuesday indicted a Costa Rican man for alleged ties to one of the largest and most pernicious telemarketing sweepstakes scams in recent American history, marking the first new arrest in the case since federal agents attempted to shut down the boiler room operations in 2006.

The 25-year-old defendant, Emilio Jose Torres, was detained at a Miami airport last month and has been accused in Tuesday's indictment of running an illegal call center in Costa Rica.

"The defendant and his co-conspirators would falsely inform victims by telephone that they had won a large sweepstakes prize but that they needed to pay certain order to collect their prize," the indictment says. "This process would continue for as long as the particular victim could be persuaded to send additional funds."

Authorities tell ABC News they believe Torres is one key player in a much larger scam operation that has been targeting mostly elderly victims in the U.S. for several years. The swindlers have stolen more than $20 million from people who thought they were paying luxury taxes or other fees in order to receive sweepstakes winnings, authorities said. Last month, law enforcement officials in Costa Rica said they believed as many as 20 boiler rooms were operating, though they are difficult to track because they change locations about every three months.

Frank A. Rubino, a renowned criminal defense attorney in Miami -- best known for representing former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega -- has taken on Torres as a client. He told ABC News his client is "a nice educated young man who has never been arrested or had any legal problems in his life.""He's been accused," Rubino said. "Now the government has to prove it."

Rubino markets himself as a top-tier white collar defense attorney who "limits his practice to the most serious and complex state, federal and international charges." When asked how a 25-year-old with no clear legal source of income could afford Rubino's services, the attorney said Torres's parents have made a good living in the Costa Rican real estate market. "His parents love him dearly and they're doing what they have to in order to help him," he said.

Torres is currently being held in a North Carolina jail and is scheduled to enter a plea at the end of this month.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Massive Phone Scam Stealing Millions From America's Elderly

Patricia Bowles of Virginia lost more than $300,000 to a sweepstakes scam before she learned the callers were never going to deliver on their promise of a $1.1 million check. She sent the money to the scammers believing she was paying insurance and taxes in advance on her imaginary winnings. Photo Courtesy - ABC News(NEW YORK) -- A massive phone scam exploiting the good name of the Make-A-Wish Foundation has siphoned more than $20 million from unsuspecting Americans and has been escalating in recent months.  Authorities say it is fast becoming one of the ugliest telemarketing schemes to target the elderly in years.

Swindlers pretending to be calling from such government agencies as the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Trade Commission have put a new twist on an old con.  They are hiding offshore, thousands of miles away, but they're using internet phone technology to disguise their location.  Victims see a 202 area code on their phones when the calls come in, and dial seemingly authentic U.S. phone numbers to call the scammers back.

"Unlike the standard telemarketing frauds … these weren't people hiding behind a phone number you couldn't call -- a voice you couldn't recreate. These were people who left telephone numbers and would talk to you," said Paul Allvin, a vice president of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, who became alarmed when he started hearing from multiple victims a week about the fraudulent calls.

And talk they did. One team of con artists spoke with Patricia Bowles, the owner of a Virginia modeling studio, almost every day for more than a month. Eventually, they had persuaded her to send more than $300,000 through Western Union and Moneygram in what she thought were luxury taxes and insurance fees on the $1.1 million prize they promised would be arriving any day. She told ABC News Chief Investigative Correspondent Brian Ross that she was devastated when she learned the woman claiming to be from the U.S. Treasury Department was really just a crook, and her money was never coming back.

"She said, 'Mrs. Bowles, we've been trying to reach you.' Very, very warm. Very kind. 'There is money here for you … it is sitting here on my desk. And I am just determined this money is yours. And I just want to help you get it,'" Bowles recalled.

"It's trust in people. I'm not living in a dream world. Trust me, I have been shaken out of that many times. But I think this time it has taken away that very, very core of me that is just sad to have to [relinquish]."

During a six-month investigation, ABC News obtained never-before published recordings of the phone calls and tracked down two fugitives who have been hiding in Costa Rica. The two men, Roberto Fields Curtis and Andreas Leimer, both Americans formerly of Florida, have been indicted in the scheme but avoided extradition because they also held Costa Rican citizenship. Both denied their involvement in the fraud, but both also made clear they had no intention of returning to the U.S. to attempt to clear their names.

Ross approached Curtis at his residence in suburban San Jose and asked what he would tell people who have been victimized. Curtis shrugged.

"I'm sorry about it," he said.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio