LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A man was in custody today and a woman was being sought for a scam in which they allegedly pretended to be from government agencies and threatened victims with arrest if they didn't pay a bribe.
Nicolas Brady Kennedy was arrested on an unrelated warrant and Ashley Marie Walker is being sought, said Chief Patrick Nelson of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department's Detective Division.
The Georgia-based suspects have been charged by the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office with counts of extortion or attempted extortion, Nelson said. Kennedy was being held in Georgia, pending extradition to California.
“This particular type of scam has been around for some time,” Nelson said. “Unfortunately, they're still having some success in using it.”
An investigation determined Kennedy 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, the department said.
According to Nelson, the suspects called people -- many of them elderly -- in March and April and falsely claimed to be from a government agency like the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department or the Social Security Administration. Some respondents were told there was an arrest warrant for them for failure to report for jury service.
The scammers would claim they could “fix” the warrant by being paid money in the form of gift cards, Nelson said.
Six known victims paid the scammers a total of more than $16,000. Three other potential victims did not pay, even after being pressured, Nelson said.
Legitimate agencies will not demand such payments, Nelson said.
“The main focus is to make sure we try to avoid additional victims, Nelson said. “It's much better if we're able to warn the public of the danger, to begin with.”
Nelson said investigators believe there are other suspects involved in the scam and there are other possible victims, and he urged them to call the sheriff's department.