Ronald James Poellnitz, 19, of Kennesaw, is charged with seven felony counts of impersonating a police officer and seven misdemeanor counts of theft of services for allegedly tricking local business employees into thinking they are avoiding collect calls from the Cobb County Jail when in fact the charges are being rerouted to them.
He remains in the Cobb County Jail on charges dating back to April 6, 2012, when he was charged with violating his probation, according to jail records.
Col. Milton Beck with the Sheriff’s Office said they learned about the incident when they were alerted about several suspicious calls from the jail.
According to a warrant, Poellnitz called seven businesses in Marietta and told whoever answered the phone that he was an officer with the Cobb County Sheriff’s Office and that if they dial *72 followed by a specific phone number, they would be blocked from receiving calls from the jail and collect call charges would be removed.
In reality, it rerouted the charges to the businesses so Poellnitz could call his girlfriend for free, according to the warrant.
Poellnitz is accused of making 271 phone calls between Aug. 1 and Oct. 15, racking up $1,355 in charges. Each call cost $5.
“If an individual receives collect calls from the Cobb County Jail, or from someone who says they are a law enforcement officer, hang up,” Beck said. “They won’t call you collect.”
Beck recommends citizens listen to any collect phone call message in its entirety and if they are concerned to call the watch commander on duty at the jail at (770) 499-4212. This case remains under investigation.
“When you call the jail, a recording will say ‘You have a phone call from whomever, who is an inmate in the Cobb County Jail,’” he said. “It’s a warning that it is a Cobb County inmate.”
According to the warrant, Poellnitz called a SuperCuts, a Dunkin Donuts, Cajun Crawfish and Seafood, 610 Burbank Hair Salon, Impulse Hair Salon and a Blimpee.
Michael Gibbs, the owner of 610 Burbank Hair Salon in Smyrna, said this is the first time something like this has happened at his shop. Twenty-seven calls were charged to his business.
“I’ve never heard of anything like this,” he said. “I don’t even understand how it works.”
Gibbs said he didn’t notice how the scam was affecting his business until almost 24 hours later when they weren’t able to use one of the two lines the salon has.
“Line 1 was the one I forwarded,” he recalled.
Gibbs ended up calling his phone provider, who said he could dial *73 to fix the line.
Allan Le at Cajun Crawfish and Seafood off Windy Hill Road in Marietta said his restaurant was charged six times.
“They called us three days in a row,” Le said. “We accepted the call to find out what was going on. I told the officer we didn’t know who he was and when we tried to call the number he provided, no one answered.”