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Bergen County Sheriff: Phone Scam Traced To Georgia Prison

HACKENSACK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A correction officer and an inmate in Georgia targeted Bergen County residents in a phone scam, convincing them they needed to pay fines for missing jury duty or having an outstanding arrest warrant, police said.

Starting in March, a person claiming in several incidents to be a Bergen County Sheriff’s Office official began calling residents, telling them they would be arrested unless they provided their credit card number or loaded money from their accounts onto a prepaid debit card.

“Victims were being told that they had to pay a fine for missing jury duty,” said Bergen County Sheriff Michael Saudino. “Individuals making the fraudulent calls were using a prepaid phone… with a 201 area code to make it seem like the call was coming from Bergen County.”

Saudino said some of the victims reported receiving a call from a “major” in his office — a title that does not exist there, 1010 WINS’ Sonia Rincon reported.

“The runners would take a portion of the proceeds for themselves, and transfer the rest of the balance to the inmate’s commissary account,” Saudino explained.

That commissary account is what inmates use to buy items such as toothpaste and potato chips. Saudino said investigators found one inmate’s account with $300,000 in it.

At least one person in Hackensack was duped into forking over $1,000, Saudino said.

Police arrested Clarinda Carter, a corrections officer at Wheeler State Prison in Alamo, Georgia, and Covian Camp, an inmate at Autry State Prison near Pelham, Georgia. They are both charged with theft by extortion and impersonating an officer.

“These two suspects initially met at this private correctional facility, where Calinda Carter worked, and developed a relationship together,” Saudino said.

Officials said a cellphone was found in Camp’s cellblock.

The sheriff believes more arrests will follow. Meanwhile, officials from 11 other states are lining up to charge Carter and Camp, too, Rincon reported.

“Even if they identify themselves as a police officer, don’t give any money over the phone,” Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli said to Gainer.

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