Sheriff’s Office Warns of Extortion Scams Targeting Individuals in Philadelphia and Surrounding Counties
PHILADELPHIA, PA---The office of the Sheriff of Philadelphia City and County is urging individuals in the city AND surrounding counties to be aware of people trying to extort money by claiming they represent the sheriff’s office and/or the court, or Jury Commission Office.
“We are also supporting efforts by Philadelphia City Councilman Curtis Jones, Jr., the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, and the First Judicial District in getting the word out about these scam artists and the despicable ways they are preying on innocent people,” said Sheriff Jewell Williams.
“I need to make it absolutely clear,” said Sheriff Williams, “we NEVER call ANYONE about a debt. We SERVE a court-executed warrant”.
Among those who have been victimized are a number of constituents in Councilman Jones’ 4th District who have complained of people calling and threatening them with arrest and/or a heavy fine because they have either failed to appear for Jury Duty, or have not paid a specific debt, usually from a “quick loan” organization or a credit card debt.
Examples of the methodology used by the scammers include:
A 67-year-old woman being told she needed to pay a fine because she failed to respond to a jury notice. The man said his name was Mike Sapp and represented the Office of the Sheriff of Philadelphia. After the woman informed him she was going to call both the police and the court, he hung up.
“As the Chairman of the Public Safety Committee, I am deeply concerned about this scam especially since it seems like they are targeting constituents in the 4th District,” said Jones. “I urge anybody contacted by these scammers to contact the proper authorities immediately."
Richard T. McSorley, Deputy Court Administrator, Criminal Trial Division for the First Judicial District of Pennsylvania, has issued the following: “A jury summons is an official court order requiring jury duty. Failure to respond to your jury notice can result in legal consequences including contempt. However, no fines, costs or warrants of arrest are ever issued without notice of a court hearing that would be held in the Stout Center for Criminal Justice at 1301 Filbert street. No phone calls are ever made to those who fail to appear for jury duty”.
If you suspect you are being scammed or are suspicious of anyone claiming to be from the sheriff’s office or the court, please call any of the following numbers for verification and/or clarity:
Sheriff’s Warrant Unit Captures Man Wanted by the FBI for a Series of Bank Robberies in Philadelphia
PHILADELPHIA, PA--Members of the Sheriff of Philadelphia’s Fugitive Warrant Unit last night apprehended an individual wanted by the FBI in connection with a string of recent bank robberies in Philadelphia.
The suspect, Richard Cooper, was taken into custody by the warrant unit around 7:15 p.m. Sunday night in an alley on the 2200 Block of E. Cambria Street.
Cooper, who was not the original target of the warrant unit, was also under house arrest before he took off recently and was being sought by the warrant unit for being an absconder on rape charges.
According to Staff Inspector Jennifer Algarin, one of the individuals involved in the apprehension, and Captain Vernon Muse, head of the warrant unit, while enroute to a two-story row home on the block to serve a warrant on an individual charged with intent to deliver drugs, the unit, which consisted of five individuals, were tipped off by an informant that Cooper was in the same house.
Further investigation revealed Cooper was also being sought in connection with no less than two bank robberies at gunpoint. Amid concerns he may have been armed with a high powered weapon, the unit also called in the Philadelphia Police Stakeout unit and other uniformed Philadelphia Police officers for backup.
As the warrant unit approached the front of the house, Cooper fled out the back door and into an alley where he was apprehended without a struggle by members of the warrant unit already covering the rear.
Cooper was taken by the warrant unit to the Curran Fromhold Correction Facility on State Road.
“We never know what we are going to face when we go out looking for fugitives,” said Sheriff Jewell Williams. “The fact this dangerous individual was captured without a struggle and no one was hurt is a plus for us, and a testimony to good training, but more importantly, it means that one less dangerous individual is no longer on the streets.”
For more information contact Joseph Blake, Communications Officer, at 215-495-4174.
PHILADELPHIA, PA---The Office of the Sheriff of Philadelphia City and County has launched an interactive, data-rich WebAPP that offers detailed information on properties scheduled for sheriff’s sale that includes names, dates of sale, location, and what will possibly be the opening bid on the property.
The site, at www.phillysheriff.com also contains maps, word-search fields, and a wealth of detailed information about the properties and the conditions under which they are being sold.
“This new feature is a continuation of our efforts to make us as transparent as possible while providing a level of technical efficiency and service that has never been offered by this office,” said Sheriff Jewell Williams.
The web application is the first of its kind in the nation to be used by a sheriff’s office, and is in line with Sheriff Williams pledge to provide more openness and accessibility to records and data for everyone. This has also helped to level the playing field for those looking for a home, and a piece of the American dream.
“When you look at who attends sheriff sales now,” said Sheriff Williams, “there are just as many individuals and first-time buyers as there are speculators and contractors. That’s partly because of innovations like this app, our outreach and educational seminars on how to buy at a sale.”
The upgraded website also offers:
IT Director Tom Dodd, and web developer Micah Mahjoubian worked together to create the site and say the interest is already high, and increasing daily.
“Basically, the entire web site is all about delivering on promises of transparency and openness,” says Dodd. “Technology allows us to do just that, while also raising our level of professionalism and service.”
Payments to Philadelphia's city treasury and utilities, from mortgage foreclosures and delinquent tax, gas and water bills, surged to $58.3 million last year, a 40% jump from $34.4 million in 2013, according to a statement from the city's elected Sheriff, Jewell Williams. The office, which also transport prisoners, has in the past been accused of inefficiency and favoritism in its management of delinquent property accounts.
"The increase in revenue can be attributed to two changes," says Williams' office: First: a new policy "that requires purchasers of properties to make final settlement within thirty days after the sale is held. In the past, final payment could be made months after a property was sold." Second, "a new data management system which increased the speed of processing sales and collecting payments."
“The faster we get paid for properties, the faster we can send delinquent taxes and municipal fees to the City,” Williams said in a statement. The payments include $22.7 million in back taxes from foreclosed properties, $8.5 million in back water bills, and $5.4 million to the city-owned Philadelphia Gas Works.
Willaims also says his office has speeded up processing deeds to foreclosure buyers to "20 days or less," from "months" in the past. "People who purchase properties at sheriff sales need a deed to take possession of the property and return it to productive use," Wiliams added.
Philadelphia Sheriff‘S Office Opens Application Process for New Deputies December 22nd Through January 2nd, 2015 for Act II, Act 120 and State Police Certified Individuals
PHILADELPHIA, PA--The Office of the Sheriff of Philadelphia City and County is seeking to hire qualified individuals for the position of Deputy Sheriff Officer December 22nd through January 2nd, 2015.
“Deputy Sheriff Officers are highly trained in both law enforcement and civil procedures needed for this challenging, and rewarding position”, said Philadelphia Sheriff Jewell Williams.
Potential deputies must also undergo background checks and pass written exams, physical, agility, and physiological tests before being considered for the position.
State law requires all candidates to pass a 19-week course at Penn State University.
All potential hires must either live in the City of Philadelphia, or become a resident within six months of hire.
For more information, and to fill out the online application, visit the web site of the Office of the Sheriff of Philadelphia City and County at www.phillysheriff.com, or the City of Philadelphia’s web site at www.phila.gov. (Look under the Personnel heading for the job description and access to an application).
Media contact: Joseph Blake at 215-686-3572
Office of the Sheriff’s Holiday Toy Drive Kicks Off Today For Patients at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
Philadelphia, Dec. 3—The Philadelphia Sheriff’s Bicycle Patrol Unit has put together a Holiday Toy Drive that starts today and runs through December 19th, 2014. The unit is seeking donations of new, unwrapped, infant and/or adolescent gifts for those children still hospitalized over the holidays.
Whether it’s needles for tests, painful therapy, or simply being in a space that is not home, these children struggle daily through different illnesses and challenges, but they can still take part in the holiday spirit through the generosity of others eager to share their blessings of health, family, and home.
“This is the time of year that usually brings smiles to the faces of children, joy to their hearts and hope for their futures,” said Jewell Williams, Sheriff of Philadelphia City and County.
“The fact the men and women of the Bike Unit have volunteered their time to collect gifts for these children does not surprise me, and, indeed, reinforces the same values of compassion and duty that is a constant throughout this office,” said Sheriff Williams. “I salute them for their thoughtfulness.”
Gifts can be dropped off at boxes near the entrance of the following locations during regular business hours:
Suggested gifts include infant sound machines, bath toys, mobiles, and other crib toys. Adolescent items could include model and craft kits, jewelry sets, watches, art supplies, bath items and make-up and manicure sets.
Media Contact (not for publication): Joseph P. Blake (215) 686-3572
Philadelphia, July 14 -- Sheriff Jewell Williams announced today that for Fiscal Year 2014 the Sheriff’s Office increased its payment of delinquent taxes and fees to the City by 40-Percent over Fiscal Year 2013.
Delinquent taxes, water and gas bills are collected through monthly Mortgage Foreclosure and Tax Sales. In FY 2013 the office collected and turned over $27,500,000. In the fiscal year ending on June 30, 2014 the office collected and sent to the City of Philadelphia $45,160,648—an increase of $18.1 million.
The Sheriff attributed the added revenue in part to increases in the number of properties put up for sale. However, the majority of the increase was due to the efficiency of the new information technology system and the hiring of staff to conduct and process sales in a timely manner. After a year of development, this new computer system first became operational for the October 2013 auctions.
“The principal mission of the Sheriff’s Office is to transport up to five hundred prisoners a day to and from Courts and to guard and protect everyone who uses the City’s nine Court facilities. However, as agents of the Court System we carry out duties directed by Court Order. One of the most complicated is holding Foreclosure and Tax Sales,” noted Sheriff Williams.
“There are some sales in which approximately 500 new properties are put up for auction”, he continued. “Over the course of a year about 7,500 new properties and liens are put up for sale and each property has to be processed, advertised, and posted. Once sold, the delinquencies owed to the City must be paid and a deed prepared for the new owner.”
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – A Deputy Sheriff who died back in 1982 trying to stop two men from robbing a bar in West Philadelphia now has a plaque dedicated in his honor, laid in the sidewalk in front of the Criminal Justice Center.
It’s the 266th Hero Plaque Dedication, but organizer James Binns notes Roy Fortson, Jr. was the first Philadelphia Deputy Sheriff to be killed in the line-of-duty, since the office was founded in 1750.
“He could have taken a pass. The law enforcement officer in him came out and he did engage them, but was shot five times and killed.”
His family is grateful for the recognition, including Fortson’s widow, Edna.
“My heart is overwhelmed. I feel the love that you showed my husband. As a servant of god, he did what he was required to do that night, not knowing that it would be his last.”
Philadelphia Sheriff Jewell Williams says laying the plaque outside the Criminal Justice Center serves as a reminder of the challenges brave officers face, and that “we will never forget a fallen officer.”
For Helen Clowney, working with and serving the neighbors on her neatly kept, tree-lined block in North Philadelphia has been a labor of love - one that has endured a half-century.
Looking out on the cherry blossoms that brighten the 2200 block of North Woodstock Street, Clowney speaks with pride of the street where she has lived her entire life and served as a block captain for 50 years. She is retiring this spring.
"It's a family block. It's like family. We're very close," Clowney said Thursday.
"If somebody gets sick, everybody steps in and helps," she said. "If they need something, we try to help them get it. It's just a close-knit block."
Last week, Clowney was honored by her neighbors, family, and community leaders at her church, St. Martin de Porres. More than 100 people attended.
Clowney, a widow who doesn't like to discuss her age, said she knew every person living on the block of 70 homes between Susquehanna Avenue and Dauphin Street.
"I can tell you who lives in each house," Clowney said.
And her neighbors know her for her activism, her generosity, and the whistle she blows when calling for them to participate in street cleanups several times a year.
"Miss Helen is one of the icons of this block," said neighbor Paul Richards. "She's going to be sorely missed as our block captain."
When it's time to clean up the block, "she gets out that whistle," Richards said. "She goes from the top of the block, blowing that whistle, and she has a few of the kids knocking on doors."
When the work is done, she gives everyone a treat, Richards said, usually a pretzel and water ice.
He and others said Clowney is known for organizing the street's annual Memorial Day block party.
Another neighbor, Bernice Hines, also recalled Clowney blowing her whistle to call out neighbors for projects.
"She used the whistle to say, 'All you lazy birds, get out here. You're a part of this block. Show your commitment to it,' " Hines said.
Asked what she liked about being a block captain, Clowney said, "It just makes me feel good inside. When we have affairs in the block, we never have any trouble. Everybody is just family."
Clowney noted that she has a cocaptain, Willie Mae Clark, who has worked with her for many years. "She's a very good person, and I think she should be recognized, too," Clowney said.
Clowney, a graduate of Philadelphia High School for Girls who spent her life as a stay-at-home mother with one child, said she enjoyed walking children to school and back home again.
Among her other interests, she said, she enjoys spending time at the Martin Luther King Older Adult Center on Cecil B. Moore Avenue, where she leads a poetry class.
Clowney also likes to cut a few steps doing line dances. She said she enjoys doing the electric slide and the cha-cha slide. "The Baltimore - that's my favorite. They named that one after me," she quipped. "I taught my granddaughter, my son-in-law, and my daughter."
Her son-in-law, Tony Leonard, said Clowney goes to meetings with elected officials in the community and attends monthly meetings with police at the 22d District at 17th Street and Montgomery Avenue. She describes Philadelphia Sheriff Jewell Williams and City Council President Darrell L. Clarke, who grew up in the neighborhood, as "two of my kids."
She is pleased that a neighbor, Jannette Robinson, will take over as block captain. Clowney said the street also has three junior block captains, two boys and a girl.
Clowney said she was stepping down because "I thought it was time enough for someone else to step up to the plate and take my place after 50 years."
Hines, her neighbor, stood on her front steps and looked down proudly.
"You see this block and the way it looks. It looks this way because of her," Hines said. "She has worked hard to keep it intact."
Written by Vernon Clark for the Philadelphia Inquirer on May 6, 2014.