ACCUSED MURDERER SCAMS ELDERLY MAN FROM JAIL
Saturday, September 11, 2010— A Chicago man awaiting trial for a 2007 drive-by shooting is now charged with an additional felony, after he hijacked an elderly man’s phone line by carrying out a scam from the Cook County Jail, Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart announced Saturday.
Jaryan Gills, 29, is charged with impersonating a police officer, a felony. Already being held on $1 million bond, an additional bond of $50,000 was added Friday as a result of this charge.
On Sept. 2, Gills was out of his maximum security cell for recreation time when he used a jailhouse phone to make a collect call. He dialed random numbers until his call was accepted by 77-year-old Chicago man. Gills then immediately identified himself as “Officer Smith with the Cook County Sheriff’s Department,” telling the victim that a relative was involved in a car accident. Gills told the man to immediately call “Lt. Long” at the scene of the crash by dialing *72, then a number actually registered to Gills’ girlfriend.
The victim did not enter the numbers correctly, however, and Gills called him back two more times, walking him through the process, until the victim did it correctly. By dialing *72, the victim had forwarded his phone line to Gills’ girlfriend’s house. That meant that when Gills called the victim’s number again, it rang directly to his girlfriend’s house, where a person accepted seven collect calls over the course of one day – all charged to the victim’s phone line. Once a scam is successfully carried out, inmates often barter with other inmates to make collect calls with the number.
The entire time, the victim is unable to use their phone, further adding to the urgency of trying to learn more about the “accident” involving a loved one. This victim, however, learned after just a day that there was no crash and it was a scam. Phone company officials will not hold the victim responsible for the calls.
Dart highlighted the problem of inmates using phones to carry out scams in 2008 after a sting operation found 20 jail inmates carrying out scams against victims across the country. But in October 2008, a new jail phone system was installed which includes a long introduction that specifically says it is a collect call from an inmate at the Cook County Jail, followed by a warning not to dial *72 or 1172, even if instructed to do so by the person calling. The same warning is played periodically during calls.
Last year, Dart successfully lobbied the state legislature to make it a felony simply for carrying out a phone scam using a jailhouse phone – a law that took effect in January. Anyone who wants their phone number blocked from being dialed by Cook County Jail phone numbers can call 773-674-6838 to register it.