GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. - Investigators believe a large scam ring working inside one of Georgia's most secure prisons is using drones to bring in contraband.
Channel 2's Tony Thomas broke the story of the large-scale money scam on Friday.
According to investigators, inmates at Macon State Prison made more than 10,000 phone calls to potential victims in one month, and they told elaborate lies to convince their targets to pay up.
Investigators believe the ring potentially made tens of thousands of dollars off the scam.
"There is no real way of telling how big of an operation this truly is," said Josh Deas with the Gwinnett County Sheriff's Office.
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Investigators believe this ring uses drones as its personal delivery service.
According to authorities, an outsider attaches the cargo, more contraband to the machine, launches and then flies it under darkness over the fence and right into the prison yard.
Channel 2 Action News obtained a picture that investigator Carl Sims said was taken off a suspect's phone from inside Macon State Prison. The picture's purpose was to direct a drone pilot to the drop-off spot for their latest cargo.
Sims said drugs and cellphones are mostly being dropped off. He added that a green dot is the light from a drone being flown into the prison by a suspect connected to a ring Sims' men just busted.
Two men are now in jail, and charges are expected against the accused ringleader, a man already serving a life sentence.
Investigators said inmates used contraband phones, such as the ones in their cells, to make the calls. They impersonated officers and told victims they had to wire a fee or they would be arrested for ignoring a jury summons.
The state corrections department spokeswoman sent Channel 2 Action News a statement saying in part:
Drones are fast becoming a nationwide issue within prison systems. We take it very seriously and our committed staff works every day to manage this growing contraband challenge.
"It's a cat and mouse game. We find a way to stop them and they find a way to beat us," Sims said.
Investigators said the drones are too small to be used to bring in any large cache of weapons. A drone might be able to bring in a small caliber handgun, but that's about it, they said.
So far, investigators said they haven’t had any indication that a weapon has been brought in.
The ring apparently just wants to keep its profits coming.
Investigators say this pic was taken by a prison inmate from his cell. Designed to show a drone operator path to fly and drop cargo of drugs and cellphones . How you could wind up unknowingly paying for this — at 6pm. pic.twitter.com/gADuBu9AYd— Tony Thomas (@TonyThomasWSB) January 15, 2018
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