Two prisoners were charged Thursday with fleecing victims of $9,000 by calling them from the Cook County Jail and demanding protection money by posing as corrupt police officers.
The pair were accused of running the scam out of the jail between October 1999 and June 2000, calling random phone numbers throughout the United States and persuading those who answered to accept the charges.
The indictment said a special effort was made to reach women in Southern states because the two men believed that such victims would not be familiar with police procedures and thus would be easy to fool.
Kenneth Scott, 30, and Mason M. Johnson, 21, both of Chicago, were each charged in the federal indictment with one count of extortion, one count of extortion conspiracy and nine separate counts of wire fraud.
Once they had a victim on the line, the two men claimed to be police officers and threatened to arrest the victim for drug trafficking, according to the indictment. It said they also told the victims that they could avoid arrest by wiring money to Chicago.
One elderly woman identified in the indictment only as "P.J." borrowed against her credit cards to pay repeated demands from the two men, according to the indictment. Prosecutors said she is now all but bankrupt and having trouble repaying the debts.