LARGO – A Largo woman alerted the Sixth Judicial Circuit of a scam targeting citizens supposedly fined for not showing up for jury duty.
Mary Smith knew better than to believe a caller who told her she had to pay a fine with a credit card or be arrested for not responding to a jury summons. Instead of falling for the scheme, Smith called the office of Chief Judge Thomas McGrady, whom she had been told had issued the warrant for her arrest.
“There just seems to be one scam after another of various types,” McGrady said. “This person was sharp enough to check it out before giving her credit card number.”
The person who called Smith even passed the call along to his “supervisor,” who explained that in lieu of a credit card number, she could go to CVS or Walgreens to purchase a “green card” for the fine amount and tax, explained Ron Stuart, spokesman for the Sixth Judicial Circuit.
McGrady said he’s heard of the scheme before, but not within the Sixth Circuit, which encompasses Pinellas and Pasco counties. Victims can be taken in by such a scheme because it sounds plausible, he said. They might think that they missed their summons due to an address error and really are at risk of being arrested.
“Of course none of that is the way it would happen, but people don’t know,” McGrady said.
Jury summons are sent to a citizen’s address according to his or her driver’s license. If a juror fails to appear on their schedule date, they could be fined $100, but would be scheduled for a hearing to make their case first.
“We would never, ever call requesting a credit card number,” McGrady said. “That’s just not the way we do it. You always get a chance to give your side of the story before we fine anyway.”
The jury summons notice will include a phone number to call in case those summoned need to reschedule their date or have a permitted excuse as outlined by state law. There also is a website where citizens can pick a new date to serve as jurors. McGrady said the courts do try to work with citizens and appreciate the service they provide as jurors.
“Jury duty is the ultimate service that a citizen can do, short of being in military,” he said. “It affronts me that they would use the court system just for their own personal gain.”