Inmates, using smuggled cellphones, would call Gwinnett County residents posing as a deputy collecting fines from those who supposedly missed jury duty and were facing arrest, officials said Friday.
According to Channel 2 Action News, at least one inmate at Macon State Prison made more than 10,300 phone calls from one smuggled cellphone in just one month.
Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office Investigator Josh Deas told Channel 2 that almost 4,700 of those calls were made to PayPal, which was used to move money to various accounts. The rest of the calls were made to threaten arrest if a payment, which ranged from $400 to $700, was not received.
The inmate who authorities consider the ringleader is already serving a life sentence. He has not been named.
One former prisoner was in Gwinnett court to answer charges Friday. Octavis Nix was paroled from the prison in late November, having been there three times since 2010, mostly for theft.
The Department of Corrections declined to comment on an investigation being conducted by another agency, but it said it had uncovered cases in which inmates made 17,000 calls from one smuggled cellphone, which is considered contraband.
“This highlights the serious issue of cellphones in the hands of inmates,” corrections spokeswoman Joan Heath said Friday. “Along with cellphones, drones are fast becoming a nationwide issue within prison systems.”
In just the third quarter of last year, DOC took 1,524 cellphones from inmates, some of whom had been using them to continue their criminal activity.
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