Between March, 2019 and April, 2019, an imposter posing as a Los Angeles County deputy sheriff stole thousands of dollars from numerous victims. The imposter called residents, told them he was a deputy sheriff with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) and demanded payment of a fine for failing to respond to a jury duty summons.
In fear of being arrested, victims paid the fine in the form of gift cards. The truth was, the imposter lied about the jury summonses, and used a fraudulent sense of emergency and pressure to coerce hard-earned money from unsuspecting people, many of them elderly.
Several reports with similar characteristics were received and investigation of the crime spree was assigned to detectives from the Fraud and Cyber Crimes Bureau-Emerging Cyber Trends team. As the investigation proceeded, it became clear the imposter used a sophisticated set of techniques to hide his location and identity, including telephone number spoofs and the use of names of real LASD personnel.
Detectives identified the suspect as Nicolas Brady Kennedy, 29, of Loganville, Georgia. They travelled to Georgia, where they worked with investigators from the Loganville Police Department and the U.S. Marshalls Service, to obtain and serve a search warrant at the suspect’s residence. During service of the warrant, the suspect and additional evidence were located, as well as a second suspect, Ashley Marie Walker, 28, of Loganville, Georgia.
Kennedy was charged with six counts of Extortion, California Penal Code Section 518, and three counts of Attempted Extortion, California Penal Code Sections 664 and 518, by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office. Kennedy is being held in the Gwinnett County Jail in Georgia on a probation hold, pending extradition to California.
Walker was charged with three counts of Extortion, California Penal Code Section 518, and three counts of Attempted Extortion, Penal Code Sections 664 and 518, by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office. Walker is currently out of custody. A warrant was issued for her arrest.
During a press conference held Monday, September 16, 2019, Sheriff Alex Villanueva announced the investigation.
Chief Pat Nelson outlined the investigation and presented methods of preventing falling prey to similar scams. “The main focus…is to make sure we try to avoid additional victims,” he said. “It’s much better if we’re able to warn the public of the danger, to begin with.”
If you receive a demand for payment by telephone, email or other means of communication, to be made in any form for any reason, from someone portraying themself as a deputy sheriff or other Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department employee, do not comply. Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department personnel will never ask for payment over the phone or by email.
If you believe you were a victim of this type of crime, contact your local law enforcement agency and report the incident.
Here are some tips to identify a potential threat-based impersonation scam and how to prevent yourself from falling prey to this scam or similar scams:
- Scammers pretend to be from a government agency.
- They threaten victims with arrest for outstanding warrants or other legal issue.
- They pressure victims to purchase various types of gift cards or instruct them how to purchase bitcoin.
- Once a victim makes the purchase, the scammer instructs them to read the gift card numbers or bitcoin key over the phone.
- Once the scammer is satisfied they received the necessary information, the line is disconnected.
- Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department personnel will never ask for any type of payment over the telephone. Financial transactions with our agency are handled at patrol stations, court houses and custody facilities.
- If you are unsure if a call or email is real, verify the identity of the contact through an independent source, such as a phone book or online search. Do not use the contact details provided by the caller or in the message they sent.
- Do not feel pressured by a threatening caller. Hang up and verify their story.
- Never send money, or give bank account, credit card or personal information to anyone you do not know or trust.
- A government agency or trusted business will never ask for payment by unconventional methods, such as gift or store cards, iTunes, cards, wire transfers, or bitcoin.