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20 COOK COUNTY JAIL INMATES CHARGED IN NATIONWIDEs PHONE SCAM

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Monday, November 24, 2008 —      Twenty Cook County Jail inmates have been charged with impersonating a police officer in fraudulent phone calls that reached into several states across the country and into Canada, prompting installation of a new phone system and safeguards to prevent further abuse, Sheriff Thomas J. Dart announced today.

     The offenders, charged over several days late last week, each face one count of impersonation of a police officer. If convicted, each man could face between 1 and 3 additional years in prison. Police believe the inmates in this investigation collectively have charged more than $50,000 in illegal phone calls.

     The phone scam was conducted by inmates housed in various areas of the jail, from minimum security dorms to maximum security wings. Because inmates at the jail are pre-trial detainees who have not yet been convicted of a crime, they are entitled to use pay phones located in the day rooms of their jail tiers.

      According to investigators, the scam allows inmates to effectively “hijack” the victim’s phone number by getting the victim to forward their phone number to the jail phone, which then allows the inmate to charge subsequent collect calls to the victim’s home account.

    The inmates conducting the scam would place collect calls to random numbers and pose as a police officer. They then tell the individual who answered the telephone that a loved one was in an automobile accident and in order to get more information about it, the victim must dial a series of numbers to reach an officer at the scene who will provide more details. The inmate then instructs the person on the phone to write down a phone number beginning with either “*72” or the numbers “1172.” The remaining number is a phone number of an inmate acquaintance outside the jail that now can perform three-way calling.

      Dialing the number opens the victim’s phone line for use by the inmate. That phone at the jail can then continue to be used by inmates until the victim contacts their phone company to inquire why they cannot use their phone. It is only then they find out about the jail scam.

     This particular investigation began in early June and concluded with the charges brought last week. Offenders charged in this investigation placed calls to random phone numbers in Chicago, Maywood, as well as Gary, IN, Las Vegas, NV, Jefferson, TX, London, KY, Willowville, Ohio and Berwick, Nova Scotia.

     “The old phone system allowed inmates to reach out from behind bars to victimize people in their own homes,” Sheriff Dart said. “Listening to these calls is heartbreaking, especially when you hear the fear in the voices of the victims.”

     During the press conference, Sheriff Dart played audio clips from two fraudulent calls made from the Jail.

     In one case, offender Antoine Simmons calls a Las Vegas home on July 17 shortly before noon and speaks with an 11-year-old boy who answers the phone. Simmons, who has been linked to nearly 80 scam jailhouse phone calls, is successful in getting the boy to copy the fraudulent number and dial it, opening the phone line for two days and racking up $115.00 in fraudulent charges.

     In a second case, inmate Marquez Ellis called a Jefferson, Texas home on October 30 and spoke to a woman with a heart condition. She was so upset by the scam call, she handed the phone to another relative who tearfully took down the phone number and begged the inmate “officer” to tell her that her loved ones were not dead. Ultimately, the women followed the inmate’s instructions resulting in about $60  in fraudulent charges.   

     To combat the problem, a new telephone system was installed throughout the jail campus and became operational October 27. New features of the system include a longer introduction that specifically states “This is a collect call from an inmate at the Cook County Department of Corrections in Chicago, Illinois. Be aware of unlawful solicitation or deceptive practices.” It also warns those answering the phone not to dial “*72” or “1172.”

     The new system also allows citizens to call the jail and have their phone number blocked from being dialed by inmates. Anyone wishing to have their number blocked may call 773-674-6838.  

     An additional feature to the new system, which will debut next year, is voice biometrics. This component of the system will record an inmate’s voice when he is processed into the jail as a detainee. The voice will be retained in the new system and serve as a person’s “vocal fingerprint” enabling Sheriff’s officers to directly track an inmate to fraudulent calls made on the new system.    

     Sheriff Dart also plans to pursue Legislative measures at the state level making the simple act of fraudulent calls from any penal institution a felony offense.                
The offenders charged with a felony are:

Anthony Alexander, 24, of 1432 N. Maplewood, Chicago
In custody since 2008 on possession of a controlled substance

Nicholas Akerele, 27, of 175 N. Harbor Dr., Chicago
In custody since 2007 on 2cts. attempt first degree murder and violation of bail bond

Christopher Baggett, 27, of 730 N. Lockwood Ave., Chicago
In custody since 2006 on 1 ct first degree murder

Bruce Booker, 26, of 7007 S. Elizabeth, Chicago
In custody since 2007 on 1 ct. Aggravated kidnapping

Deonte Clayborn, 20, of 935 E. 45th St., Chicago
In custody since 2008 on one count of aggravated battery with a firearm and man/del heroin

Kentrell Culbreath, 28, of 9139 S. Commercial, Chicago
In custody since 2006 on one count of first degree murder

Dejean Devon, 22, of 11441 S. Princeton, Chicago
In custody since 2006 on aggravated domestic battery, battery and domestic battery

Javon Dockery, 23, of 5246 S. Morgan, Chicago
In custody since 2008 for two cts. first degree murder and delivery of a controlled substance

Markez Ellis, 26, of 4057 W. Cullerton, Chicago
In custody since 2007 on 1 ct. first degree murder & parole violation

Ronnie Gordon, 26, of 1010 S. 11th Avenue, Maywood
In custody since 2008 for 2 cts. of aggravated UUW and UUW

Kazeen Kareem, 27, of 3726 W. 84th  St., Chicago
In custody since 2006 for aggravated sexual assault and theft

Antonio Mathis, 24, of 3536 W. 12th St., Chicago
In custody since 2008 for armed robbery & other charges

Correail Nash, 21, of 5614 S. Troop, Chicago
In custody since 2006 for 2 cts. 1st degree murder and violation of probation

Timothy Simmons, 30, of 14528 Vail, Dixmoor
In custody since 2007 on 1 ct. first degree murder

Frank Thomas, 27, of 6914 Elizabeth, Chicago
In custody since 2007 for home invasion, home invasion with a firearm and DUI

Donnell Turman, 18, of 5525 S. Everett, Chicago
In custody since 2007 for sexual assault

Kenyhatta Williams, 26 of 711 S. Western Avenue, Chicago
In custody since 2008 for first degree murder

Jaber Wilson, 22, of 7526 S. Eberhart, Chicago
In custody since 2007 on 1 ct. first degree murder

 

Those offenders charged with a misdemeanor are:

Albert Collins, 23, of 6611 S. Paulina, Chicago
In custody since 2007 on 3 cts. of home invasion

Timothy Simmons, 30, of 14528 Vail, Dixmoor
In custody since 2007 on 1 ct. first degree murder

 

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