Scam artists posing as attorneys have infiltrated Cook County’s online criminal court proceedings to defraud defendants, according to a recent letter from Chief Judge Timothy Evans to all of the county’s judges. The letter was provided to CWBChicago by a source.
While Cook County’s court system has resumed some in-person trials and hearings as the COVID pandemic wanes, many hearings are still conducted remotely.
Evans told judges that scammers are entering private chats with defendants on Zoom with offers to represent them for a fee. In some cases, defendants transferred money to the fake attorneys via Zelle, Evans said.
The courts have referred all known incidents to the Cook County Sheriff’s Police Department for investigation, according to Evans.
He asked all judges to “be mindful of the implications of releasing a defendant’s personal information on Zoom and, to the extent possible, refrain from orally stating a defendant’s phone number or address during a Zoom proceeding.”
Evans suggested that judges could ask defendants to send them direct chats with personal information needed by the court.
“I would further request that judges advise defendants on Zoom to first verify the credentials of any attorney before sending any money electronically to them.”
Evans did not say exactly how many people have been victimized or how much money they lost.