Scammers call, Sheriff answers

cellphoneiconBy Jeff Aydelette | Staff Writer

KINGSTON, JAMAICA – Con artists, dialing from this Caribbean hotbed of chicanery, inadvertently called an unlikely target this week – the cell phone of Pamlico County Sheriff Billy Sawyer Jr.

“They told me I was the third place winner in the Publisher’s Clearinghouse Sweepstakes,” said Sawyer, “and that I had won $350,000 and a new Chevy Malibu.”

The sophisticated scam was on Sawyer’s radar screen, however. He and other investigators recently investigated nearly identical calls that tricked a woman in Hobucken.

“They told her she had won the first place prize of $2.5 million, and they got her to send a $1,000 wire transfer for something they called a ‘credit card bonding fee.’ They also told her that they were close by and that they were traveling with an attorney and two U.S. Marshals.”

Prosecuting this type of crime is difficult, said Sawyer, because it originates outside the jurisdiction of U.S. law enforcement.

Sawyer said the man with whom he spoke “tried to mask his accent.” And, in response to Sawyer’s question, the caller identified himself as Peter Rogers.

“Then, he told me that to claim the prize I needed to call his Office Manager, a fellow named Henry Morgan,” recalled Sawyer.

The veteran law enforcement officer played along, and ultimately found himself talking to the culprit who eventually asked for a type of upfront payment.

But, when Sawyer surprised the con artist with a brusque “you happen to be talking to the Sheriff of Pamlico County,” the phone went dead.

Sawyer wants readers to be on the lookout for any calls originating from area code 876. He also confirmed with officials from the real Publishers Clearinghouse Sweepstakes that they never call beforehand. They just show up on the winner’s doorstep, as seen on TV.

“If they need money upfront for attorney’s fees, or to bond a check, or for any reason, that’s going to be a scam every time,” warned Sawyer.

To report this type of incident or anything similar, call the Sheriff’s Department at 745-3101.

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