Joanne Bell said her heart felt like it was beating out of her chest when the man on the other line was claiming to be Lt. Tony Little with the Sheriff’s Office, telling her she was going to be arrested if she didn’t pay $600 for running a red light. As soon as she reached for her wallet to pay the man, Bell realized something with his story didn’t add up.
“They were just little, tiny things that began to make, as people say, the hair on the back of your neck stand up,” said Bell. “My heart was just as fast as it could go.”
Bell said that for 15 minutes her heart raced as she pressed the man on the other line for more details.
“He made it sound like he was trying to keep me from going to jail,” said Bell.
The Clay County Sheriff’s Office said the voice on the other line talking to Bell belonged to 38-year-old Daniel Floyd, an inmate at Autry State Prison. Floyd is currently serving his second year of a 20-year sentence for armed robbery. Investigators said Floyd smuggled in cellphones and placed the calls within the confines of his cell.
“They were smuggled in through various ways, from them being flown in through remote control helicopters, to thrown over the prison walls inside of dead animals or a football,” said Clay County Sheriff Rick Beseler.
Deputies said Floyd’s girlfriend, 27-year-old Ashley Dean, was in on the scam too. Dean is accused of transferring about $1,700 in stolen cash into Floyd’s inmate account. Bell said Floyd was polite and persuasive, two things that nearly had her reaching for her wallet to pay him.
“He said, ‘Well maybe someone else was driving your car,’ and I said, 'Well, that’s possible. My son drives it, my grandson drives it,” said Bell.
Bell is thankful that she never handed over any money to Floyd, in large part because she said he made one key mistake.
“’How do you make arrangements to pay for this so that you won’t have to be arrested?’ Bell said Floyd asked her. "And I’m like, 'I don’t know, it’s just after Christmas and I’ll have to reconcile my bank account and I’ll have to call you back.' I began to get a creepy feeling.”
Bell’s son quickly alerted authorities in the Clay County Sheriff’s Department, who have now identified 12 other victims to this scam.
“(I feel) anger, Anger that he took advantage of so many people,” said Bell.
Detectives in Clay County believe there are likely more victims to Floyd’s scam. They said victims could be in Georgia or as far away as Alabama and Tennessee.