By Sheena Barnett
TUPELO – Two people in Georgia have been arrested in connection with a telephone scam that targeted Lee County residents as well as those in two other states.
The Lee County Sheriff’s Department issued an alert last week that scam artists were calling residents, posing as sheriff’s officers and telling residents they owed the county anywhere from $500 to $1,000 for missing jury duty or else they’d be arrested. Often the scam artists would pose as Lee County Sheriff Jim Johnson.
On Saturday, authorities at the Autry State Prison in Pelham, Georgia, contacted Johnson and said they’d obtained a cellphone from an inmate that contained Lee County numbers. Both the inmate, Covian Camp, and a correctional officer, Clarinda Carter, have been arrested in connection with the crime, Johnson said.
The Burton County Sheriff’s Department in New Jersey has charges pending in relation to the same scam, as well as a department in California.
It’s a nationwide investigation, Johnson said, and this scam is related to a gang, although he did not mention which one.
Lee County has not filed charges yet but will this week, and will extradite the suspects.
“The citizens of Lee County do not deserve this,” Johnson said, especially following the April 28 tornado that left portions of Tupelo and Lee County hard hit.
Cellphones aren’t allowed in correctional facilities, Johnson said, for reasons such as these.
He said he did not know the relationship between Camp and Carter, but that sometimes relationships of some kind do develop between inmates and correctional officers.
“It’s not the officer changing the actions of the inmate, but the inmate changing the actions of the officer,” Johnson said.
Camp was serving time in jail on drug charges.