Wheeler Correctional Facility in Alamo, Georgia had no idea that their employee Clarinda K. Clark, a correctional officer with the state's prison system had partnered with Covian J. Camp, an inmate at Autry State Prison in Pelham, Georgia to run a national phone scam on people in as many as 11 states.
On May 21 Fox31online revealed that the criminal activity came to light when residents in Bergen County in New Jersey began to complain to the Bergen County Sheriff's Office about the scam, which consisted of residents being told they had missed jury duty and would now be required to pay a fine to avoid arrest, or that there was a warrant out for their arrest, which they could avoid by paying the fine.
Payment for the fine was to be made by providing their credit card numbers to the person contacting them from a prepaid cell phone with a "201" area code. Otherwise, they were told they would need to load money from their bank accounts onto prepaid debit cards in order to avoid arrest.
The worst part of all this criminal story is that Wheeler Correctional Facility is a private prison, not operated on a daily basis by the state government, which might have prevented this potential occurrence if it had been. Instead, it is operated by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), which was founded by three men with a vision: to allow businesses to operate prisons, not government.
And everyone knows that businesses are focused on making money and turning a profit, which explains why CCA was recognized by Forbes magazine named CCA as "the nation's 'best managed company' in the business services and supplies category in January 2007. And why the organization passed their $2 million milestone in shareholder distributions in August 2012, and why after three decades of financial success they chose in January 2013 to restructure into a REIT (a company that owns and operates income producing real estate, which, in this case, is prisons).
Victims in 12 states have now dealt with scam phone calls in which a correctional officer of a Georgia private prison is alleged to have told them they missed jury duty and have to pay $700 or risk arrest. And an inmate within one of those prisons has been implicated in the criminal act.
WCBI reported that Lee County Sheriff Jim Johnson in Mississippi warned the public in his community about the scam last week, and had this to say about cell phone use in prisons at that time.
A lot of times there will be a relationship struck up between an inmate and an employee, and nine times out of ten, the employee is not changing the acts of the inmate, the inmate is changing the acts of the employee," the sheriff said.
Investment U says "crime pays...at least if you structure it as a REIT". And in this case with CCA, it appears they may be right, for the correctional officer and the prison, at least in one way or another, as a prison focused on making money might be a lot less focused on actually making sure their employees are being as law abiding as the inmates they are supposed to influence for good.
Inmate Covian J. Camp remains in Autry State Prison in Pelham, facing new charges in the case, and his alleged co-conspirator former correctional officer Clarinda K. Clark agreed to be extradited to New Jersey, to face charges there for extortion and impersonation of a law enforcement officer. In addition, both suspects now face state and federal charges in 11 states. And law enforcement warns the public that this type of scam has been tied to gang activity in California and New Jersey. And to contact your local law enforcement office if someone calls you claiming you missed jury duty and have to pay a fine.