Sonoma County court officials warned Tuesday of an attempt to defraud people who were told they missed jury duty.
At least four people received phone calls saying they needed to pay $380 to clear arrest warrants stemming from their failure to report for service, said Jose Guillen, the court's executive officer.
One woman was told she needed to pay by 4 p.m. or risk jail. She was instructed to go to Safeway or Walgreens, buy a "green" gift card and give it to a person who would be waiting for her, Guillen said.
She instead went to the jury office, where officials told her she had not been called for jury duty. Even if she had missed a mandatory reporting date, the courts do not issue arrest warrants for that, Guillen said.
"That is not a court-sponsored program," Guillen said.
He said the calls were being investigated by court deputies.
Similar scams have been reported elsewhere in the state, including in Contra Costa and Ventura counties.
Guillen warned against giving money or personal information to anyone who calls seeking payment to clear a jury warrant. They are advised to immediately contact police, he said.
Crisis Care: The new mental institutions
Sonoma County has a chronic shortage of psychiatric hospital beds. As as a result, a growing number of mentally ill residents are ending up in local emergency rooms and in the jail system. A four-part series, run on four consecutive Sundays, examines the causes and ramifications of the current state of the county’s mental health system, and the people who are impacted the most.
Aug. 6 — Hospitals: The closure of two psychiatric hospitals in Sonoma County has left a gaping hole.
Today — Solutions: Sonoma County explores ways to improve services to people suffering from severe mental illness.
Aug. 27 — Your response: Readers share their stories about Sonoma County's mental health system.
Ongoing coverage: www.pressdemocrat.com/crisiscare
Share your story
We want to hear about your experience with local psychiatric emergency services. What do you do when you or a loved one faces a mental health crisis? Have you or a loved one sat in a hospital bed waiting to be transferred to an out-of-county psychiatric hospital or other mental health facility? Have you or a loved one received psychiatric services in the Sonoma County Jail’s mental health unit? Please send a brief account of your experience to Martin Espinoza at firstname.lastname@example.org.