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BIRMINGHAM – The FBI today arrested two Georgia residents on charges they took part in an interstate jury-duty scam, announced U.S. Attorney Jay E. Town, FBI Special Agent in Charge Johnnie Sharp Jr. and U.S. Marshal Martin Keely.
A one-count indictment filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama charges TEIANA MARIE TAYLOR and ORENTHIAL WALKER, both of Decatur, Georgia, with conspiring together and with others to commit wire fraud with false information concerning jury duty. They were arrested in Georgia.
“Scammers like these undermine the authority of the courts and federal law enforcement agencies dedicated to the rule of law,” Town said. “It is important for everyone to understand, in an effort to avoid becoming a victim, that federal agencies will never call you on the phone and demand money. We do not, typically, call ahead.”
According to the indictment, a member of the conspiracy would call a resident of the Northern District of Alabama, falsely claim to be a federal official, falsely claim that a judge had issued an arrest warrant for the resident, and then demand immediate payment of money. If the resident agreed to pay, the caller would demand that the victim transfer the money by means of gift cards or through commercial money transfer services to an account controlled by the conspiracy. Walker, 42, and Taylor, 35, would then withdraw the proceeds of the fraud and transfer them as directed by the conspiracy, according to the indictment.
The maximum penalty for conspiracy to commit wire fraud is 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Victims of this fraud commonly report that the scammers sound convincing and speak authoritatively. The scammers may use real information about the victim and accurate court addresses. They may also use the real names of law enforcement officers, court officials, and federal judges to make the scam appear more credible. They may even “spoof” the phone number on caller ID so that it falsely appears to be from the court or a government agency.
Citizens can protect themselves by knowing these facts about federal jury service:
●The court will always send a jury summons by U.S. Mail.
●The court and law enforcement will never demand payment over the phone.
●The court and law enforcement will never demand a gift card number to satisfy an obligation.
●A prospective juror who disregards a jury summons will be contacted through the mail by the court clerk’s office and may, in certain circumstances, be ordered to appear before a judge. Such an order will always be in writing and signed by the judge.
●A fine will never be imposed until after the individual has appeared in court and been given the opportunity to explain his or her failure to appear. If a fine is imposed, it will be in open court and reduced to writing (and will not be payable by gift card number).
Citizens who wish to verify whether they were summoned for federal jury duty may contact the Northern District of Alabama’s jury office at 1-800-222-8715. Citizens can report a scam phone call by contacting the FBI Birmingham Field Office at 205-326-6166.
The FBI and the U.S. Marshals Service investigated this case, which Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan S. Keim is prosecuting.
An indictment contains only charges. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.