A Dayton, Ohio, man accused of posing as a Muscogee County sheriff lieutenant in a telephone scam for court fees is now held in the Muscogee County Jail.
John L. Dewberry, 37, was picked up in Ohio last week after an investigation identified him in a telephone scam. Dewberry faces one count of theft by deception and two counts each of impersonating a peace officer and using a communication facility to commit a crime.
He was booked into the Muscogee County Jail on Aug. 7 and appeared in Muscogee Municipal Court on Friday. Sheriff John Darr said the charges were bound over without bond to Muscogee Superior Court.
During the sheriff’s investigation, Darr said Dewberry was contacting people about missing a court date. The caller said a warrant would be issued for their arrest if they didn’t get a Green-Dot card, a pre-loaded card with money available.
Dewberry is accused in seeking amounts of $1,500 and $2,000 from victims.
Leonard Crain, president of the Better Business Bureau in Columbus, said the card may be purchased at kiosks at retail outlets. Scammers have turned to preloaded cards instead of using Western Union or Moneygrams, he said.
“Whatever the scam, the victims are instructed to buy the card, load it and then give the pin number to the caller,” Crain said. “So if anyone receives a call for any reason and is told to go through this process, they are allowing themselves to become a victim and will be out the money.”
Darr said his office was in contact with a possible victim of the scam on Wednesday. All the victims called apparently have the last name Smith and were from the local area.
“They were going alphabetically and all the people were Smith,” the sheriff said.
Darr said the suspect may face additional charges as the investigation continues with the latest victims.
People who reported the activity may have thought no arrest would be made. Darr pointed to the efforts of investigators for tracking the suspect’s phone number.
“I think our guys did a good job because they tracked the guy down, he is in the county jail and right now he is going to face charges,” the sheriff said.
Darr warned residents about callers seeking money over the phone for court fees. “In law enforcement, we are not calling anybody and telling you that you are going to have a warrant if you don’t bring some money,” he said. “No, we don’t do that.”