A Georgia man is accused of making calls impersonating a Clay County Sheriff's Office lieutenant and threatening at least five people to pay $530 for outstanding red-light citations or risk going to jail.
The catch? The man impersonating Lt. Tony Little was making the calls from a cell in a southwest Georgia prison, according to deputies, and the people he called didn't have any outstanding citations.
"He said my car had gone through a red light at Loring and (U.S) 17," said 89-year-old Nancy Allen. "He was just so polished, I just knew he had to be from the Sheriff's Office."
The Clay County Sheriff's Office has no Lt. Little, and deputies say they never call anyone asking for money to settle an outstanding traffic infraction.
Daniel Ray Floyd, of Pelham, Ga., is charged with 10 counts of schemes to defraud and impersonating a police officer. His girlfriend, Ashley Dean, of Fayetteville, Ga., who is accused of helping Floyd pull off the scam, was also charged.
Floyd was serving a 20-year sentence for armed robbery at the Autry State Prison. Authorities say he has a history of terroristic threats and forgery.
"It stunned even us -- who are experienced investigators who have thought we have seen just about everything -- when we figured out who it was who was doing this," said Clay County Sheriff Rick Beseler.
Authorities believe there are many more victims across the southeastern United States.
Clay County investigators say Dean helped Floyd pull off the scam. She is under arrest on charges of schemes to defraud.
"She would help provide newspaper articles about which jurisdictions have red-light cameras, so they were able to determine the fact that Green Cove Springs and Orange Park city (have) red-light cameras," Beseler said.
Beseler believes Floyd found the numbers surfing the Internet on a cellphone he had -- one of 98 contraband phones found during shakedowns of the prison in October and November.
"They were smuggled in through various ways, from them being flown in through remote control helicopters, to thrown over the prison walls, inside of dead animals or a football," Beseler said.
The numbers of the Clay County victims were found in the phone confiscated from Floyd. The reason detectives believe there are many other victims is that Floyd appeared to change the phone's number several times to reflect local area codes in Georgia, Alabama and other locations so his number would match those of the counties where his potential victims were located.
The Sheriff's Office says Floyd and Dean will be extradited to Florida to face prosecution.