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Northeast Ohio courts hit with impostor phone scam that threatens arrest if victim doesn't pay

Posted at 10:23 PM, Feb 13, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-14 11:03:23-05

Residents in Cleveland and Portage County are being traumatized by phone calls from con artists posing as employees with the Cleveland Clerk of Courts, or the offices of Portage County judges.

Cleveland Clerk of Courts Information Officer Obie Shelton said the clerks office is getting phone calls from residents who have been told to pay thousands of dollars on fictitious arrest warrants, or they'll be arrested.

Shelton said the caller ID does come back as the Cleveland Clerk of Courts office, but he said his office would never place a phone call when making the first attempt in collecting a fee - residents would first get a notice in the mail.

"I was surprised by how threatening these calls to consumers have been," said Shelton. "If someone says we're going to send the Sheriff's Deputies out, well that's really not accurate, but it sounds accurate to somebody who isn't used to government and how it works."

At the same time, a similar scam is taking place in Portage County, where the sheriff's department explained residents are being billed out of thousands of dollars, and their credit card information. 

Portage County Detective Lt. Greg Johnson said the impostors are posing as employees with the clerk of courts, or the offices of Judges Laurie Pittman and Judge Becky Doherty.

Johnson said the caller is telling victims that they will be arrested unless they pay thousands on the spot.

"There's that fear factor installed that people think the Sheriff's Department or the local police department is going to come out and arrest me if I don't do this," said Johnson. "They are giving you a way to take care of the warrants by putting up a bond. They're telling you we need you to go get a prepaid credit card or prepaid gift cards."

Johnson said it's been tough to track down the criminals who are using voiceover internet phone providers.