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Lake County inmates linked to phone scam

By Associated Press
Published October 26, 2003

TAVARES - Lake County authorities are accusing at least two jail inmates of a scam that charged at least $50,000 worth of collect calls to more than 100 Central Florida customers.

The scheme had been occurring for about six months, said Sheriff's Office spokesman Lt. Todd Luce on Friday.

Sprint spokesman Jason Duff said the scam was discovered when their customers and BellSouth's customers began reporting collect calls made from the jail on their phone bills.

Sprint investigators learned that the inmates "found a way for innocent customers to incur the charges for long distance phone calls placed from the jail," Duff said. Inmates were not calling the customers but merely billing calls to them, he said.

The Sheriff's Office did not release the identities of the inmates involved. Luce said the ultimate victims of the fraud were phone companies, not consumers.

As the jail's phone provider, Sprint compensated both its customers and BellSouth's customers, Duff said. So far, the total is about $50,000, but Sprint expects a few more complaints with the next billing cycle.

Authorities plan to file a complaint with the State's Attorney's Office within 30 days, Luce said.

Possible charges include grand theft and theft of services.

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