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Tue, Sept. 17

Would-be arrest warrant scam victims fight back

PRESCOTT - When Joyce Arnold got the phone call from someone claiming to be from the sheriff's office saying that she was going to be arrested and jailed on a warrant for failure to appear for jury duty unless she paid about $700 in fines, she was baffled and upset.

But her husband, Allan, was angry.

Not even realizing that the call was from a scammer, he told the caller, "Over my dead body, anybody's going to put her in jail for not showing up for jury duty."

He could not believe that a missed jury summons would lead to jail time. "I thought, 'Good gosh, this is the United States of America. This...can't happen.'"

Allan said the man was "very threatening," but Allan "accused him of using Nazi tactics," and finally hung up, still believing the call might be legitimate.

He dialed the number on his Caller ID, and heard a convincing recording that sounded like a YCSO message, but then looked up the real main sheriff's telephone number - 928-771-3260 - and found out the caller had been trying to rip them off.

Yavapai County Sheriff's spokesman Dwight D'Evelyn said that both his agency and the Prescott Police have received reports that they've been used by con artists running this scam.

"Law enforcement agencies will never call to solicit payment on a warrant in this manner," he said. "These calls are always fraudulent."

D'Evelyn said some callers have used names, like "Sgt. Michael Barnsworth" and "Lt. Jeff Johnson," to convince their targets that they need to pay up. The "Lieutenant" directed one subject to go to a grocery store and buy two "Green Dot" debit cards for $493 each, and told her that if she called or went to a law enforcement agency, she would be "arrested on the spot," D'Evelyn said. That made her suspicious, so she called to check on the alleged warrant and was told it was a scam.

Allan said his caller also told him the only acceptable way to pay was a money transfer, and that he could not pay by check, cash, credit card, or money order.

D'Evelyn said detectives are investigating the scam and that anyone contacted in this manner should call their police department, using officially published phone numbers, to report it.

Follow the reporter on Twitter @AZNewsguy

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