Inmates targeting East Texans from behind bars

By Bob Hallmark - bio | email
Posted by Ellen Krafve - email

EAST TEXAS (KLTV) - Authorities in Pittsburg say residents have been hit with a barrage of phone calls from a Houston area jail. Even though the inmates are behind jail walls, they still can do a lot of damage to your finances.

For four days, Pittsburg Police have fielded dozens of calls, complaining about constant phone calls from a 713, or Harris County area code.

"The departments received complaints of between 30 to 40 calls emanating from a 713 area code number," said Richard Penn. "There's a recording that comes on says its an inmate collect call."

Tim Nicholson took one of those calls.

"I picked up the phone and it sounded like a deputy sheriff," said Nicholson. "He said I had a person incarcerated in the Harris County Jail...and that it would cost me so much money a minute when I call."

Thinking someone needed his help he took the next step.

"Maybe it was a friend of mine - I don't know who it might have been so I just followed directions," said Nicholson. "10 minutes later this guy calls back again. They called back four more times."

At least 40 complaints have been filed, and an investigation by Pittsburg Police showed the calls were coming from pay phones inside jails near Houston.

"I can't tell you why they've singled out Camp County," said Penn. "Unfortunately, we can't find out which cells theses calls are being made from."

So, what are they after? charges.

"If a person accepts a collect call then they're charged," said Penn. "Then, they're charged a permanent rate after that. They're automatically charged a fee this goes on their phone bill."

Penn says be careful who you take a collect call from. Harrison County Jail officials are investigating to find the origin of the calls. Until then, Chief Penn says if you get one of the collect inmate calls, "don't accept it."

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