Sheriff’s Office Warns of Extortion Scams Targeting Individuals in Philadelphia and Surrounding Counties

PHILADELPHIA, PA---The office of the Sheriff of Philadelphia City and County is urging individuals in the city AND surrounding counties to be aware of people trying to extort money by claiming they represent the sheriff’s office and/or the court, or Jury Commission Office.

“We are also supporting efforts by Philadelphia City Councilman Curtis Jones, Jr., the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, and the First Judicial District in getting the word out about these scam artists and the despicable ways they are preying on innocent people,” said Sheriff Jewell Williams.

“I need to make it absolutely clear,” said Sheriff Williams, “we NEVER call ANYONE about a debt.  We SERVE a court-executed warrant”.

Among those who have been victimized are a number of constituents in Councilman Jones’ 4th District who have complained of people calling and threatening them with arrest and/or a heavy fine because they have either failed to appear for Jury Duty, or have not paid a specific debt, usually from a “quick loan” organization or a credit card debt.

Examples of the methodology used by the scammers include:

A 67-year-old woman being told she needed to pay a fine because she failed to respond to a jury notice.  The man said his name was Mike Sapp and represented the Office of the Sheriff of Philadelphia.  After the woman informed him she was going to call both the police and the court, he hung up.

  • A man being told there was a “warrant out for his arrest for theft by deception” because he failed to pay money owed on a credit card.  The female caller said she also represented the sheriff’s office and he could either turn himself in or call a certain number to pay the debt.   The caller even said it was okay to use a PayPal Account.  Unfortunately, the man wound up paying $300 to an organization called United Financial Resource.
  • Another woman was told she had to pay a fine because she missed grand jury duty and there was an outstanding warrant for her arrest.  The man who called her identified himself as Deputy Sheriff Strong.  The woman was literally on her way to pay the fine, but contacted Councilman Jones’ office first, which intervened and uncovered the scam.  Also, no such “Deputy Sheriff Strong” works at the Office of the Sheriff of Philadelphia City and County.

“As the Chairman of the Public Safety Committee, I am deeply concerned about this scam especially since it seems like they are targeting constituents in the 4th District,” said Jones. “I urge anybody contacted by these scammers to contact the proper authorities immediately."

Richard T. McSorley, Deputy Court Administrator, Criminal Trial Division for the First Judicial District of Pennsylvania, has issued the following:  “A jury summons is an official court order requiring jury duty. Failure to respond to your jury notice can result in legal consequences including contempt. However, no fines, costs or warrants of arrest are ever issued without notice of a court hearing that would be held in the Stout Center for Criminal Justice at 1301 Filbert street. No phone calls are ever made to those who fail to appear for jury duty”.

If you suspect you are being scammed or are suspicious of anyone claiming to be from the sheriff’s office or the court, please call any of the following numbers for verification and/or clarity:

  • Office of the Sheriff of Philadelphia City and County: 215-686-3530
  • Jury Commission Office: 215-683-7190.
  • District Attorney’s Office: 215-686-9900