TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Crooks are turning to a new scam to target families in the Tampa Bay area, saying you didn’t show up for jury duty and you’ll be arrested, unless you pay up.
Now, in a rare interview, one of Florida’s top judges is speaking out about it to 8 On Your Side Investigator Mahsa Saeidi.
Judges want you to serve on the jury. It’s a right and a privilege; however, judges do not issue bench warrants to have you arrested because you missed jury duty.
Attorney John Fitzgibbons defends people, accused of crimes. Lately, Fitzgibbons has been getting calls from folks who aren’t just presumed innocent. They’re pure victims alarmed, afraid, and after advice.
“Are they going to get arrested? Do they need a defense lawyer?” Fitzgibbons asked. “They are very, very, upset because nobody wants the police to come to their door and haul them off in handcuffs.”
It’s a jury duty scam so effective, the courts are issuing a very public warning.
Timothy J. Corrigan is the top judge of the Middle District of Florida.
“Judges don’t do interviews very often,” Chief Judge Corrigan told 8 On Your Side, “but I felt like this issue was important enough for me to ask you to do an interview.”
The Middle District is one of the busiest federal courts in the country, serving more than half the sunshine state.
In a rare television interview, Chief Judge Corrigan explains how the scam works.
Crooks call or email you, saying you didn’t show up for jury duty and you’ll be arrested unless you pay up.
They’re after your cold, hard-earned cash, and possibly, your identity.
“I’ve been a judge for over 25 years, I’ve never once issued a bench warrant for a person for not showing up for jury duty, it just doesn’t happen that way,” Chief Judge Corrigan said. “We think these calls are being made throughout your viewing area to lots of people.”
Here’s the takeaway: Courts don’t ask for sensitive info in calls and emails. In the federal system, you’ll be summoned for jury duty through the U.S. mail.
If you don’t respond, the court will follow-up, again, through the postal service.
Chief Judge Corrigan said if you can’t make jury duty, you have an opportunity to explain why. Although you won’t be arrested for skipping out, judges still want you to respond to summons.
“Our system of justice depends on people responding to jury service,” Chief Judge Corrigan said. “People who are actually picked for a jury and go through the process almost universally tell me what a great experience it was.”
Just because you get a summons doesn’t mean you’ll be picked to serve on a jury.
If you are chosen, Chief Judge tells 8 On Your Side most federal trials wrap up within a week. You’ll likely be at the courthouse only from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Additionally, the court will give you about $50 a day and cover your lunch and parking.
If you have a tip on a story, email Mahsa at MSaeidi@WFLA.com.