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Man who fell for phone scam targeting La Plata County residents shares his story

John Perry wants to warn others about fake deputies soliciting money over missed jury duty
(Adobe Stock)

Durango resident John Perry had just stepped off the airplane in Los Angeles to take part in a bicycle race when he received the voicemail.

The caller claimed to be Lt. Scott from the La Plata County Sheriff’s Office, calling for Albert Perry.

“And I’m like, ‘Uh, OK, well that’s not me,’ so I called because I wanted to do the right thing,” Perry said. “And he said, ‘Oh no, I think my secretary made a mistake, I’m looking for John Perry.’ And I said, ‘Well, that’s me.’”

Perry was about to become the latest victim of a telephone scam making the rounds in La Plata County. For the scam, a caller uses the name of an actual La Plata County Sheriff’s Office deputy in an effort to extort money from unsuspecting residents.

Perry fell for the scam on Feb. 9, one day before the Sheriff’s Office announced the latest round of fraudulent phone calls via a story published in this newspaper.

The caller asked for Perry’s birthday and then proceeded to tell him that he had failed to appear for jury duty and that a La Plata County judge named Herringer (the actual name of a former judge) had issued a bench warrant for Perry for contempt of court and failure to appear. The fake deputy added that Perry was now in the system and had been added to a no-fly list.

Perry asked what he needed to do to take care of the situation, at which point he was told he needed to purchase gift cards at Walmart and then call back with the card verification numbers in order to “bond out” and ensure he would stop in at the La Plata County Courthouse upon his return Monday to resolve the situation.

“So I fell for it, total hook, line and sinker,” Perry said.

He went to Walmart and purchased four cards valued at $200 each and then called back and gave the scammer the numbers.

“And the phone that you call is like exactly the same as if I called the La Plata County Sheriff’s Office, their 385-2900 number,” Perry said. “The same prompts, I push the extension, everything.”

Perry shrugged it off and went for a bike ride. Then the fake deputy called again claiming the office was having computer troubles and that the numbers didn’t go through. He told Perry he would need to return to Walmart and get four new cards and call with those numbers.

“And so then I thought about it and thought about it and I’m kind of like, ‘It makes no sense,’ and I should know better,” Perry said. “So I go on the internet and find the La Plata County court and find the judge’s phone number and call and get his assistant. And they are like, ‘Are you kidding? We barely have time to process the cases, let alone chase people for not coming to jury duty.’”

Perry was able to recoup $200 of the money he lost to the scam because he said he used his American Express card to purchase the first gift card and they refunded his money. But the rest was a total wash.

Perry then called the La Plata County Sheriff’s Office and talked with the real officer Scott, he said.

“And he’s like, ‘Oh yeah,’ and the whole time that I’m on the phone with him, these guys (scammers) are calling me back and I’m like, ‘Hey do you just want me to patch you through and put it on a three-way call?’ And he’s like, ‘No, no, we’ll take care of it.’

“And so I haven’t really reached out since,” Perry said.

Perry suspects the scammers are using license plate numbers of cars parked at the Durango-La Plata County Airport and then going online with that information to track down actual information about the victims of the scam.

“It’s just crazy,” Perry said. “And I feel bad for people that can’t – you know, $800 bucks is my travel spending money; it’s not the end of the world. But there are people that that would be life-changing, you know, make or break them.

“It’s when you’re vulnerable that it happens,” Perry added. “At the end of the day we are just kind of laughing about it. You know, this dunce with two years of law school totally fell for it. But it’s like, yeah, because I do the right thing. I mean that’s what you always try to do. And then the next day (the Herald) article popped up.”


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