News Briefs: Two arrested in organized fraud scheme; House of Corrections gains video chat capabilities

Video Connect sessions are offered throughout the day and available for incarcerated individuals to use on seven terminals that are appropriately spaced for social distancing in the facility contact visitor room, which is no longer being used for in-person visitations.

Investigators arrest two in nationwide organized fraud scheme

Berkshire County — Law enforcement executed search warrants at three locations in the Northern Berkshires on Monday and arrested two individuals as part of a three-month investigation into a nationwide organized fraud scheme.

The Berkshire State Police Detective Unit and the Berkshire Law Enforcement Task Force assigned to the Berkshire District Attorney’s Office and partner police organizations in Adams, Lanesborough, North Adams, Pittsfield, Williamstown and the Berkshire County Sheriff’s Office executed a total of five search warrants.

“I thank the State Police Detective Unit, Adams Police Department, and all of our partner agencies for their dedicated work investigating this complex scheme. This sophisticated conspiracy ring defrauded vulnerable people throughout the entire United States,” District Attorney Andrea Harrington said.

“Criminal enterprises steal millions of dollars from vulnerable individuals every year. Our partner law enforcement agencies and my office are committed to protecting vulnerable populations from organized fraud conspiracies.”

Investigators revealed that individuals in the Berkshires played a significant role in the ongoing organized fraud, larceny and conspiracy ring. Law enforcement gathered evidence that individuals and businesses in the Berkshires were receiving proceeds from the multi-state scheme.

Law enforcement intercepted a significant amount of U.S. currency shipped to these locations and returned the money to the appropriate victims. They also identified many of the criminal conspirators involved, their locations, the delivery methods, and the location of the suspected call center initiating the fraud.

Investigators throughout the region and the United States are still actively investigating the method and manners used to illegally solicit and defraud the victims.

Berkshire County residents are reminded to remain vigilant in protecting themselves from elaborate telephone scams in which an unknown caller seeks to alarm, panic and distress to coerce the recipient to transfer money to the caller.

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Berkshire County Sheriff’s Office, Securus Technologies bring video chat sessions to correctional facility

Pittsfield — The Berkshire County Sheriff’s Office has announced the successful implementation of Video Connect technology through a partnership with Securus Technologies. The implementation of Video Connect sessions went live May 19 as a key part of the county’s commitment to improving the well-being of incarcerated individuals by providing them with the tools necessary to see and connect with their loved ones, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It is part of our job to help prepare the incarcerated for reentry, and maintaining ongoing communications with loved ones plays a vital role in success when they’re released,” said Sheriff Thomas Bowler. “It was a priority for us to fast track this program for our population given the circumstances, as we’ve been forced to halt in-person visitation to keep people safe. We needed a solution quickly, and Securus made it happen.”

Due to suspended in-person visits, Securus Technologies stepped in to quickly deploy its technology, completing the task within six weeks. Working with the engineering team for the Berkshire County Sheriff’s Office to help run cable and equipment for the technology, Securus was able to streamline and expedite this process.

Video Connect sessions are offered throughout the day and available for incarcerated individuals to use on seven terminals that are appropriately spaced for social distancing in the facility contact visitor room, which is no longer being used for in-person visitations. Family and friends can log into their Securus accounts to schedule a Video Connect session with their incarcerated loved ones and host the session through the Securus mobile app using an Android or iOS mobile device as well as a computer or laptop. The facility will also be implementing SecureView tablets this summer, which will be available to rent by incarcerated individuals for $5.00 a month through the Securus MakeMine Program.

The Berkshire County Jail and House of Corrections currently houses 168 individuals. The communication technology is monitored for safety purposes, a standard practice shared by all correctional facilities.