Prisoner serving life sentence getting rich in phone scheme, officials say

GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. — Authorities have busted a large-scale money scheme in one state prison where they said inmates used cell phones to steal your money.

Investigators told Channel 2 Action News that inmates made more than 10,300 phone calls in just one month.

Investigators said the scheme was led by a man who's already serving a life sentence.

They aren’t sure how many phones are being used but with 10,000 calls, investigators said there’s likely a lot of victims and a lot of cash.


Investigators said the operation was managed inside the Macon State Prison in just one month.

The inmates pose as deputies, telling victims they missed a jury summons and must pay a fine or be arrested, investigators said.

“Just potential victim after victim, 4,674 of those phone calls were made to PayPal, where they are moving money back and forth to various accounts,” said Gwinnett County investigator Josh Deas.

Authorities believe the inmates get $400-$700 from each victim they scam.

Gwinnett Sheriff's investigators said one of the men who had been operating from inside the prison, Octavis Nix, was recently released on parole and busted Thursday afternoon.

His nephew Marcus Nix has been in jail a few weeks, accused of being one of the runners for the ring. He is accused of going to various businesses to pick up the wired money, then sending cash or contraband back to the ringleader behind bars.

Authorities aren't identifying the leader yet but said he's serving life in prison and getting rich.

“I had one of the inmates tell me he makes more money in one day than I make in a year, which is probably true,” said Gwinnett County Lt. Carl Sims.

Channel 2's Tony Thomas contacted the state Department of Corrections for comment:

"Because this is not GDC’s case, and because it is an open investigation, there is little we are able to share in the form of details. 

We are, however, working closely with our law enforcement partners and providing any information we have that may assist them in their efforts.

With regard to the scams, unfortunately they are not uncommon, and when they do occur, we use all resources at our disposal to bring them to a halt and diminish the effect on unsuspecting victims. 

Cell phones in prisons are a nationwide problem, and it is a daily struggle to keep them out of the hands of inmates, as these phones provide inmates with the tools to carry out these scams and other criminal activity.

I am not familiar enough with the investigation to confirm there were 10,000 calls, but to help put that in perspective, we’ve seen similar cases where more than 17,000 calls were made. 

Again, this highlights the serious issue of cell phones in the hands of inmates.

Along with cell phones, drones are fast becoming a nationwide issue within prison systems. 

For security reasons, I can’t elaborate on our efforts, but we take it very seriously and our committed staff works every day to manage this growing contraband challenge."