Only a single day separated the start of construction for a long-anticipated inmate recreation yard in Pauls Valley and the alarming news a scam artist has targeted it as a way to make some easy but illegal cash.

Although only one phone call has been confirmed, officials with the Garvin County Sheriff’s Department know it was made Tuesday by someone falsely claiming to be raising money to pay for the enclosed exercise facility.

A couple of facts to remember — those same officials are stressing the project publicly bid out has already been accounted for through county and sheriff’s office funds; plus, no one with the agency will ever solicit funds over the phone for this or any other project.

“It takes a lot of nerve for someone to do what this guy is doing,” Undersheriff Steve Brooks said.

“The sheriff’s office is not soliciting funds for this project. If anybody contacts them about this they should contact us immediately,” he said in a reference to the public.

Concerns about a possible scam emerged Tuesday — just one day after construction work began for the new 16 feet by 48 feet area on the north side of the sheriff’s office located in the Garvin County Courthouse.

Once completed in a few weeks, the facility enclosed with wire at the top will allow inmates in the county jail to get some time out of their cells.

Brooks said the call received early evening Tuesday by a Pauls Valley resident revealed the male caller, who identified himself by the name Shawn, claimed to be associated with the sheriff’s office and seeking donations for the recreation yard.

No other calls of this type had been reported to the office as of Wednesday.

Still, the red flag of concern has definitely been raised, Brooks said.

“There are a lot of people in this county who are willing to help the sheriff’s department or any county agency,” he said.

“We’re trying to get the word out about this so nobody will be taken. We don’t want anybody snookered by someone taking advantage of people’s goodwill.”

In fact, Brooks suggests residents should take caution with any fundraising campaign done over the phone.

“My advice to anyone getting solicitation calls is to contact the organization, face to face if possible, and find out if it’s a legitimate solicitation,” he said.

Although little is known about the person who made the phony call, Brooks said he likely has a “working knowledge” of the recreation yard project, either directly or through published media reports.

“This person is probably a scammer all the time,” he said.

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