A former Georgia inmate pleaded guilty in Louisiana federal court last week in connection with a scheme to use phones to steal money from victims.
Andre Deaveon Reese, 32, entered his guilty plea before United States District Judge Donald E. Walter on January 28, 2022.
He admitted that he and other inmates at Georgia's Autry State Prison used contraband cell phones to call victims - including two in Louisiana - posing as law enforcement. They told the victims that they were in trouble because they didn't show up for jury duty, but offered to make the problem go away with money.
The scheme operated in the prison from 2015 until 2020, the evidence indicates. They used the cell phones to access websites to find names, addresses and telephone numbers of potential victims, then called the people and lied to them. The victims were told that because they had failed to appear for jury duty, warrants had been issued for their arrest and the victim had a choice of being arrested on the warrant or pay a fine to have the arrest warrant dismissed.
To make the calls seem real, Reese, along with other inmates, created fictitious voicemail greetings on their contraband cellular telephones used by the inmates, identifying themselves as members of legitimate law enforcement agencies, including the U.S. Marshal Service. For those victims who wanted to pay a fine, the inmates instructed them to purchase pre-paid cash cards and provide the account number of the cash card or the victim could wire money directly into a pre-paid debit card account held by the inmates or one of the co-conspirators. Based on these false representations, the victims electronically transferred money to the inmates because they believe that the funds would be used to pay the fine.
After a victim provided an inmate with the account number of the pre-paid cash card, the inmates then used their contraband cellular telephones to contact co-conspirators, who were not incarcerated, to have those individuals transfer the money from the cash card purchased by the victims to a pre-paid debit card possessed by the coconspirators. The co-conspirators would then withdraw the victim’s money via an automated teller machine or at a retail store.
In August of 2016, two individuals, ages 75 and 78, living in the Western District of Louisiana became victims of Reese’s scheme. The victims believed the callers, who were inmates posing as legitimate law enforcement officers, and followed their instructions to pay them to have the alleged warrants for their arrest for failing to appear for jury duty dismissed. An investigation conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) determined that the two victims paid $9,797.95 to Reese and his coconspirators.
“Unfortunately, there are individuals such as this defendant who have no shame in taking advantage of people who are trusting,” stated U.S. Attorney Brandon B. Brown. “We encourage the public that when someone calls and gives you a story such as this to be cautious and contact your local law enforcement office to confirm that the story is true before you agree to pay any money to anyone. Our office will continue to investigate and pursue individuals who carry out these types of fraudulent schemes.”
The sentencing hearing for Reese has been set for May 20, 2022.
The case was investigated by the FBI and U.S. Marshal Service, and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Mary J. Mudrick.
The National Elder Fraud Hotline is a resource created by OVC for people to report fraud against anyone age 60 or older. Reporting certain financial losses due to fraud as soon as possible, and within the first 2-3 days, can increase the likelihood of recovering losses. The hotline is open 7 days a week. For more information about the hotline please visit: https://stopelderfraud.ovc.ojp.gov/.