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August 14, 2009

Governor Quinn Cracks Down on Inmate Scams
New law will increase penalties for inmates who commit phone scams from jail

CHICAGO – August 14, 2009. Governor Pat Quinn joined with Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart to sign a bill that will protect Illinois citizens from harmful and costly scams by increasing penalties for inmates who commit fraud, theft or any other unlawful practice from jail.

“This new law allows for stronger enforcement and penalties for those looking to scam unsuspecting citizens,” said Governor Quinn. “I want to salute Sheriff Dart for his help passing this legislation that will protect our neighbors and their pocketbooks.”

In one case, twenty Cook County Jail inmates collectively charged more than $50,000 in illegal phone calls that reached several states and Canada. The scam involved inmates use of payphones to “hijack” a phone number by convincing the victim to forward their phone number to the jail phone, which then allows the inmate to charge future calls to the victim’s home account.

Governor Quinn signed House Bill 4066, which makes it a Class 4 felony for an inmate to commit a phone scam from jail or prison. It also makes any use of electronic communication for fraud, theft, theft by deception, identity theft or any other unlawful practices while in jail or prison punishable to the same extent. The legislation was sponsored by Sen. Ira Silverstein (D-Chicago) and Rep. Paul Froehlich (D-Schaumburg).

“Phone scams, such as those perpetrated by detainees being held at Cook County Jail can have devastating effects on unsuspecting people victimized simply by answering their phones,” said Cook County Sheriff Dart. “While we previously charged offenders with crimes of fraud or impersonation, this legislation sends a very clear message to inmates that they face serious consequences and additional prison time if they perpetuate such scams.”

Governor Quinn also signed House Bill 562, sponsored by Rep. Susana Mendoza (D-Chicago) and Sen. Don Harmon (D-Oak Park). This law requires animal abuse investigators to report any signs of child abuse and requires Department of Children and Family Services investigators to report signs of animal abuse.

Governor Quinn was also joined by Alderman Gene Schulter (47th Ward); Rep. LaShawn K. Ford (D-Chicago); Sen. Harmon (D-Oak Park); and Rep. Froehlich (D-Schaumburg).


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