Periodically, we receive calls from Volusia County residents who report losing thousands of dollars to an aggressive criminal who called them, pretending to be a law enforcement officer, and threatened them with arrest if they didn’t pay.
Sometimes the bad guy uses an actual name of one of my staff at the Sheriff’s Office. Sometimes the caller says they’re from a courthouse or another local police agency, or the IRS, or another authoritative-sounding person.
Regardless, they all communicate the same kind of daunting message to the victim: Send money or you will be arrested—and don’t tell anyone, including law enforcement.
Unfortunately, many people believe them and send hundreds or thousands of dollars. Only to realize they’ve been fooled. Don’t fall for it!
Recently, a New Smyrna Beach resident was scammed out of $40,000 by someone claiming to be New Smyrna Beach Police Officer Mark Watson. The victim almost sent more money, but fortunately a family member prevented it and called the Sheriff’s Office.
Here’s how the phone conversation went: A person claiming to be a federal officer told the victim a shipment of drugs was being sent to his house but was intercepted and a warrant for his arrest had been issued.
The caller didn’t identify himself. A second person then called our victim to instruct him how to send $40,000 overnight in cash to fix the warrant situation. The victim was told to wrap the money in a bag and place it in a shoebox and label it paper documents. The package was delivered by UPS to a residence in South Florida before de-livery could be thwarted.
This story does have a happy ending. The victim’s bank notified the family member, who contacted us. Our detectives worked with Homeland Security agents and police in Hollywood, Florida, and identified two foreign nationals who rented a house in the U.S. and scammed the Volusia County resident.
The victim’s recovered money will be returned to him.
This didn’t have to happen. We in law enforcement never call individuals de-manding money or threatening arrest. That’s just not how we work. If there’s honestly a warrant for your arrest, well-identified VSO deputies will locate you and follow professional protocol.
We don’t call you and bully you. If you receive calls like this, chances are great that it’s a scam and hang up.
This was the second recent major scam case where Volusia detectives have made an arrest and recovered tens of thousands of dollars for the victim. In May, our team seized the bank accounts of a suspect in Las Vegas who scammed a New Smyrna Beach-area woman out of $41,000. That suspect was later extradited to Volusia County to face a charge of grand theft more than $20,000.
Avoid becoming a fraud victim:
If you think you are a victim of fraud, call our non-emergency phone number 386.248.1777. We’re here to help.
Stay safe everyone,
Sheriff Mike Chitwood