Orleans Parish court officials are warning people about an apparent scam by someone posing as an Orleans Parish sheriff’s deputy who calls people on the phone and tells them they must pay a fine for failing to report for jury duty or else face the possibility of jail.
Officials with the criminal and civil district courts said each court has received a handful of complaints since Tuesday about someone soliciting fines ranging from $895 to $2,817, under threat of jail.
“He asks for credit card information to make payment, or else a sheriff’s deputy will show up and arrest them within 24 hours,” said Civil District Court spokesman Walt Pierce.
The man claims his name is Mark Bowman, Pierce said.
Rob Kazik, the judicial administrator for Criminal District Court, said his office has received four such complaints.
The culprit apparently cites an order from Criminal District Court Chief Judge Benedict Willard, even to those he calls about jury service at Civil District Court.
No such order exists from Willard or any other judge, Kazik said, and none of the potential victims who have complained to the court are in the current jury pool.
Sheriff Marlin Gusman’s office released a statement saying a joint investigation into the suspected extortion calls, conducted with police and the criminal court, turned up no evidence of foul play on the part of any deputy.
“At this time, we believe that no Sheriff’s Office employees are involved in this criminal activity,” Gusman said.
He and court officials are asking anyone who receives such calls to contact the Police Department at (504) 658-6010.
Kazik said the court doesn’t issue fines for failing to appear for jury service but does send out notices to those who don’t show up.
“Anyone receiving such calls should never give out their personal information and should hang up,” Pierce said.
The two courts share a jury pool system. To verify a jury summons, contact the Orleans Parish Jury Commission at (504) 658-9200.