Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin and Chief David DeCesare of the Rhode Island Division of Sheriffs are alerting the public about a scam where an individual is calling Rhode Islanders claiming there is a warrant out for their arrest for failure to appear for jury duty. The individual has identified himself over the telephone as “Sergeant Bradley” from either the “Washington County Sheriff’s Office,” the “South County Sheriff’s Office,” or the “Newport County Sheriff’s Office.”
The caller ID shows the individual is calling from the 401 area code. The caller tells the person that they will be charged with a felony for failure to appear for jury duty and will then be held at the ACI for 30 days, after which they will be brought before Judge Suttell. Further, the person is instructed to turn themselves in to their local police department or the nearest government building.
The caller then instructs the individual that in order to avoid arrest, they can make an immediate payment using a pre-paid debit card. In at least one instance reported, a person paid more than $900.
A second individual was told to meet “Sergeant Bradley” at the Washington County Courthouse with a $300 payment. In this instance the person contacted the South Kingstown Police Department, who, along with the Rhode Island State Police, are investigating the incident.
If you have received one of these phone calls, please contact Rhode Island State Police Lt. Kenneth Buonaiuto at 401-444-1046.
Residents should be aware of several red flags associated with this scam: • The Rhode Island Jury Commissioner summons jurors by postal mail with ample written notice. Neither the Jury Commissioner nor the Rhode Island Sheriff’s Department makes telephone calls to prospective jurors threatening arrest or demanding that a fine be paid or a bond posted. If a juror who has been legitimately summoned in writing fails to appear, the Jury Commissioner will attempt to make contact and arrange to reschedule his or her service. Its protocol does not include or resemble the fraudulent action reported to authorities in recent days.
• Sheriffs in Rhode Island are a division of the Rhode Island Department of Public Safety and primarily work with the Courts. Unlike most other states, Rhode Island does not have sheriff departments based in counties. Each city and town has its own local police department.
• If an arrest warrant is issued for an individual, law enforcement will not contact the person to let them know it exists. No law enforcement agency in Rhode Island will allow an individual to post bail by credit card over the telephone to avoid being arrested.
Attorney General Kilmartin is urging anyone who receives a similar phone call or threat to contact the Rhode Island State Police to report the incident. “The individual making these phone calls has just enough information make themselves sound legitimate. This information, however, is readily available on the Internet to anyone with access to a computer,” said Attorney General Kilmartin. “It is very important for anyone who receives a similar phone call to write down as much information as possible, don’t provide any personal information to the individual over the telephone, do not pay any money, hang up, and contact the State Police.”
“The Rhode Island Division of Sheriffs takes all issues of fraud and misrepresentations of our personnel seriously. Anyone who questions the validity of a call or the identity of someone claiming to be affiliated with the Sheriffs Department is urged to contact our Headquarters at 275-2903 between 8am and 5pm, Monday through Friday. At no time should anyone make arrangements to pay money to avoid arrest or prosecution. A demand like this should be an obvious indication that the call and caller is fraudulent,” added Chief DeCesare.
The Office of the Attorney General Consumer Protection Unit investigates and mediates consumer complaints concerning unfair and unlawful business practices and misleading advertising arising out of alleged violations of the Deceptive Trade Practices Act. If groups of people are victimized by a deceptive trade practice, this office may file in the Superior Court a civil investigative demand, which is a formal investigation. In appropriate cases, a lawsuit to stop the illegal business practice may be initiated.
Apart from carrying out its statutory responsibilities, the Unit also provides information and referral services to the general public. Consumers are directed to the appropriate governmental or private agencies for help in answering specialized questions or resolving disputes that are not within the Unit’s jurisdiction. The Consumer Protection Unit is available to speak to community groups on how to prevent being a victim of identity theft and other scams.
For more information on the Consumer Protection Unit, or to file a consumer complaint, please call 401-274-4400 or visit www.riag.ri.gov.