Lars Singletary | The Chowchilla News
CHOWCHILLA– A pizzeria owner who claims he was defrauded by a local prison is suing the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) over an apparent prank pizza delivery call from the Valley State Prison for Women (VSPW).
The plaintiff, Stanley “Pedro” Wozniak, is suing CDCR for $717.95 in Madera County Small Claims Court over a large pizza delivery order from VSPW, an alleged prank perpetrated by an inmate in possession of a contraband smartphone.
According to Wozniak, on March 17 of this year, Pedro’s Pizza received a call from (559) 665-6100, the prison’s main number. A person claiming to be “Captain J. T. Kirk” ordered 40 “Extra Large Specials” for a celebration prison guards were holding in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. The order came to $639.60 plus $46.37 sales tax and a mandatory 5% tip ($31.98) on large orders, says Wozniak.
Upon arrival at the prison, the delivery driver was met by “a prison guard in a police car” who ordered her off the premises. She refused and a prison sergeant came out and explained outside food deliveries were prohibited. When told the caller ID at Pedro’s Pizza indicated the call came from the prison switchboard, the sergeant reportedly “snickered,” saying “You’ve been ducked by an inmate with a smartphone. Suck it up.”
The driver returned with the 40 pizzas despite the prison sergeant’s alleged offer to “take them off [her] hands.”
Wozniak’s subsequent efforts to obtain payment by contacting the prison warden’s office were fruitless. The Warden reportedly refused to take the call and Wozniak was connected to the public information officer who claimed no knowledge of the incident and promised to “get resolution.” 9 months later, a frustrated Wozniak filed the small claims suit.
According to CNET.com‘s internet security writer Jim Melton, it is a simple matter for a caller with an internet ready phone to place a call using a false caller id by using services such as CovertCalling.com (http://www.covertcalling.com/freecall/index.php).
“If inmates really do have these phones, they can call anyone while appearing to be calling from the IRS, the Whitehouse, you name it,” Melton said. “One of these days a prisoner will get smart and call his prison using the parole board’s number and get himself paroled.”
Under state law, attorneys are not present in small claims court, however, Wozniak consulted with his childhood friend Antwon T. Fitzhugh of the Dawson, Riggins, Brown & Goshen Law Firm in Merced.
“CDCR’s vicarious liability in this matter is incontestable. The prison is clearly negligent by permitting inmates to possess these devices,” Fitzhugh states. “It is a crime for an inmate to possess a cellular phone. As a direct result of VSPW’s failure to enforce the law, Pedro’s Pizza was defrauded. It is a black-and-white, textbook example of respondeat superior…”
CDCR’s public information office declined to comment, stating policy prohibits discussion of pending litigation.
A VSPW officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, acknowledged contraband phones are “out of control” at the prison but said the vendor’s own gullibility was to blame.
“Who in their right mind would fill an order from Captain Kirk? Are you telling me Pedro has never seen Star Trek? Who doesn’t know Captain J.T. Kirk is a TV character?”
For his part, Wozniak expressed surprise the caller used “Captain Kirk” as an alias but rejected the assertion the name should have given his employees cause to question the call’s authenticity.
“Are you kidding?” said Wozniak. “Call-in orders are taken by employees in their late teens and early 20’s. Most of them haven’t heard of Captain Kangaroo much less Captain Kirk…” (Full text at The Chowchilla News)