‘Jury duty’ scammers using real names of officials, targeting medical offices

JOHNSON COUNTY, Ind. – Authorities in Johnson County are warning that the people behind a jury duty phone scam are now using the names of real police officials and real judges.

Several calls from the scammers on Monday also appeared to target people working in medical and dental offices around the county. Officials at Johnson Memorial Health say three of their offices received phone calls from someone claiming to be Major Jerry Pickett with the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office. Employees at Morton Family Dental in Franklin reported the same thing Monday.

The caller asked for specific people by name, telling them they had missed a jury summons and a warrant for their arrest had been issued.

“But I could fix the situation with a situation with a surety bond,” said Doctor Emily Cline, a Johnson Memorial Health OB/GYN. “And they didn’t take checks or credit cards, but would be happy to take an electronic voucher.”

Cline says the person who called her office asked for her by name and proceeded to explain how she could pay around $1,000 to avoid going to jail.

“I don’t believe they call and warn you that they have a warrant for your arrest, I think they just show up,” Cline said. “He said his name was Major Jerry Pickett, and I didn’t think somebody in the upper echelon would be making these phone calls.”

In fact, nobody with the sheriff’s office would make such calls, according to the real Major Jerry Pickett.

“I am certainly not making these phone calls,” Major Pickett said Tuesday.  “You’re not going to get a phone call that says we have a warrant for your arrest if you don’t pay ‘x’ amount of dollars.”

Detective James Bryant has been investigating the jury duty phone scam for several months. His message to the public has been consistent since the scam appeared in Indiana.

“The sheriff’s department will not call you and tell you that you missed a court date,” Detective Bryant said. “You’ll get a letter, you’ll get something certified.”

Investigators believe the scam is being run by an organized group of people who use technology to mask the phone number and location they are calling from.  At one point Monday, one of the would-be victims called the number back.  A person on the other line answered as if they were Major Pickett.  But by Tuesday, calls to the number were going unanswered.

Investigators working on the case aren’t entirely sure why the scammers would target medical and dental offices. Doctor Cline, however, does have a theory.

“People in health care and in dental care, we live and die by our reputations,” Cline said.  “And I think people know that.  And the last thing we would want to have happen is to be arrested at our place of employment.”

Cline says scammers may also think doctors will believe they missed a summons from the court because of their busy schedules, and a busy doctor will want to resolve the issue quickly by paying the amount.

Police are urging the public to contact authorities if they receive one of these jury duty scam calls. And, if possible, they ask you to save the phone number the call came from so it can be added to a growing list of numbers that have been used in the scam.