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Jury scam callers target Whatcom County residents, pose as law enforcement

Agencies warn residents not to make payments

Scammers are posing as local law enforcement agents, such as a Whatcom County Sheriff's deputy, and threatening legal action or arrest for missing a court summons. (Ron Judd/Cascadia Daily News)
By Isaac Stone Simonelli Enterprise/Investigations Reporter

The call came to the Cascadia Daily News office Wednesday afternoon, informing a journalist that multiple warrants were out for their arrest for failure to appear for federal grand jury duty in early February.

Additionally, the male caller with a distinct Southern drawl, claimed to be “Deputy Devin Cooper” of the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office — and said the person now owes $3,000 for two citations requiring immediate attention. The caller had the CDN staffer’s name, cell phone number and home address.

It was all part of an elaborate “jury scam” — an evergreen scheme known to authorities for at least six years.

Both Bellingham Police and the sheriff’s office issued warnings to residents about the scam Thursday, Feb. 29.

“We’ve been getting ANOTHER ROUND of reports of a scam,” the sheriff’s office wrote in a Facebook post Thursday morning. “These people are very articulate and convincing. They will threaten to arrest you if their demands are not met.”

The scam is hitting the entire state with Whatcom County residents caught in the mix, said Bellingham Police Public Information Officer Megan Peters. A county employee in the sheriff’s office told CDN it had been going on for at least a month and they were aware of several residents who had lost money to the scam.

These scammers, calling from what appears to be a local number, will provide the name of a local police enforcement agency, as well as the name of an actual officer who works there, Peters said.

In the call to CDN, the alleged deputy referenced working on behalf of a judge, Steven C. Gonzales, who is the Chief Justice of the Washington Supreme Court. The scammer, who warned several times not to hang up because of “the need to have mobile custody,” provided two citation numbers linked to the case and told the CDN staffer to go immediately to the lobby of the county building and insert the citation numbers into kiosks. The person also claimed to put his “boss” on the phone to verify he was a county employee. The caller stated when payment was made, the charges would not appear on any record. But when further questioned, the caller claimed “there is an emergency here at the jail” and then hung up.

CDN could not immediately confirm if Cooper is an employee of the sheriff’s office.


The scammers can demand the potential victim purchase a pre-paid credit card — such as a Green Dot card or gift card — and provide the card number to the scammers.

“Once people do that, that money is gone,” Peters said.

Law enforcement agencies will never call up a person to settle any debts via a gift card, Peters said.

According to the U.S. Courts’ website, most contact between federal court and a prospective juror will be through the U.S. mail. Additionally, any phone or email contact by real court officials will not include requests for any sensitive information. 

“We’re just trying to prevent people from losing their money to the scammers,” Peters said. “We want to raise awareness that this is happening.”

Isaac Stone Simonelli is CDN’s enterprise/investigations reporter; reach him at isaacsimonelli@cascadiadaily.com; 360-922-3090 ext. 127.

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