ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – A scam is circulating in St. Johns County, involving a man who is pretending to be a law enforcement official and taking advantage of unsuspecting people.
News4Jax previously reported on the case, but has now learned that the crook behind the scheme is taking things one step further, by telling deputies his plans and carrying them out.
At first, the man pretended to be a deputy and he gave his fake name to his targets. He told unsuspecting victims that they had warrants out for their arrest, but they could pay him to avoid being arrested.
The man has gotten away with thousands of dollars from his victims.
But now, the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office said, the man has gotten bolder. In recent days, he’s even called the department.
“He’s asking for deputies (and) he’s getting real deputies’ names and then telling us he’s going to use that name for the scam,” said Cmdr. Chuck Mulligan, a spokesman for the Sheriff’s Office. “He’s extremely bold and (has) argued with one of our deputies the other day, trying to convince the deputy to convince the citizen to go ahead and send the money to him.”
At one point, the man was going by the name Lt. Vance Berry, according to a statement from the Sheriff’s Office. However, there is no Lt. Berry within the department, investigators warned Monday. The crook has also used the identity of Shannon Bora, who is a deputy at the Sheriff’s Office, but she is a woman. This man is an imposter and shouldn't be trusted, deputies said.
Investigators said as many as four people were scammed by the crook after he told them they had outstanding warrants for failure to appear for jury duty.
In each case, the victims used prepaid cards to pay the scam artist. Now, the Sheriff’s Office wants to put the entire community on alert.
“The truth of the matter is that we don’t operate that way,” Mulligan said. “We don’t call people and ask for money in order to get rid of warrants. That’s not how it’s handled. There is a process. It’s generally after we see you face to face and it goes through the legal system.”
In the wake of this new tactic, deputies are taking extra precautions when it comes to giving out their names over the phone.
It appears deputies are experiencing some difficulties in trying to trace the call from the crook.
Oftentimes in scams such as these, the person responsible will provide information including badge numbers, the names of actual law enforcement officials and federal judges, and courthouse addresses. They may also spoof their phone numbers to appear on caller ID as if they are calling from the court or a government agency.