Beware of schemes targeting registered sex offenders

Life is hard enough for a registered sex offender in the State of Texas. Jobs are difficult to come by. Friends and family often abandon them. There is constant judgment, ridicule, and the threat of harm by strangers.

Now, there’s a cadre of conmen out there tying to shake registered sex offenders down for money.

The scheme works like this: you get a call on your cell phone, often showing a legitimate number on the caller ID, such as a court house or county administration building. The person on the other end of the line says he’s a United States Marshall and that he’s got a warrant out for your arrest. He then claims that he has recorded conversations of you soliciting an underage person for sex. Knowing you are already registered as a sex offender, the person states he can recall the warrant and avoid release of the embarrassing material if you pay a fee. In one instance I am aware of, the con artist said he needed $850 to recall the warrant.

The whole thing is complete bs, but the target is still concerned enough by the call to sometimes pay the fee. Why? Because the last thing a sex offender wants is attention of any kind. He’d rather get ripped off than risk his parole or probation officer or the court getting phony calls about him making illegal solicitations.

The registered sex offender knows he has close to zero credibility with the criminal justice system, which is why he is a perfect target for a shakedown scheme. The con artists know this too.

It’s frustrating for me to hear about schemes like this, because they highlight the problem many rehabilitated offenders face when out in the free world. Although some sex offenders are true pedophiles and should be life registrants, many others do not fall into this category.

Most registered sex offenders pled guilty to the allegations against them, which means they accepted responsibility for their crime and paid the price for it. Many have received counseling and continued supervision. Many, if not most, have been forensically examined and deemed to be as a low re-offender or recidivist risk. What most people assume to be the normal profile of a registered sex offender – a violent predatory person who targeted and assaulted a child or vulnerable individual – actually comprises only a small percentage of those forced to register under State and Federal laws.

I continue to hope that States adopt more scientific measures for deciding who should have to register as a sex offender. I also hope that Texas and other States make further efforts to broaden the de-registration process for sex offenders who can show they do not pose a risk of re-offending. Current de-registration laws require a comparative analysis between State and Federal penal codes and prohibit certain applicants from de-registering because of the length of time the related Federal law requires offenders to register. The process should be simpler and open to more offenders who can prove they aren’t predators.

In the meantime, those who must register should be highly skeptical of cold calls from a person claiming to work for law enforcement, especially if the purported law enforcement official starts talking about paying money. Please contact your attorney if you feel like you are being targeted by such a scheme.