MCALLEN, Texas – Authorities are warning about a new scam that has begun to take root in this border county where callers dupe victims into paying hundreds or thousands of dollars in false fines to avoid getting arrested for missing jury duty.
Hidalgo County District Clerk Laura Hinojosa spoke with Breitbart Texas warning individuals that neither her staff nor any local law enforcement agency would be calling to collect fines or threatened with arrest.
The scam is only days old and involves a group of unknown individuals calling unsuspecting victims and telling them that they had missed jury duty and that a warrant for their arrest had been issued unless they paid a fine over the phone via electronic means, Hidalgo County Sheriff’s spokesman JP Rodriguez told Breitbart Texas. The sheriff’s office has stepped in to investigate the crimes and will work with other local police departments because in some of the cases the victims reported saying that the callers identified themselves as sheriff’s deputies.
Once the money is paid the victims are told to go to the district clerk’s office to collect documents clearing them of the warrant, however when they get to the courthouse they learn that it was all a scam.
“Yesterday it was horrible,” Hinojosa said as she described three separate victims going to her office and one more calling in to report the scam. “The stories were heartbreaking.”
For a law abiding citizen, $1,000 may be a mortgage payment or other bill that the victims will not be able to pay because they feared getting arrested, Rodriguez said.
Only a district judge can assess a fine for missing jury duty and that is after an entirely different procedure that is done in a court hearing, not over the phone, Hinojosa said.
While Hidalgo County officials have recently made headlines for various corruption cases including the conviction of the former sheriff for money laundering, various school board members and mayors for bribery, cases like this one are disheartening to the honest men and women in law enforcement and in the county’s employment that are trying to clean up the area’s tarnished image.