(Reuters) - Two people were in jail in Georgia on Thursday for calling 911 with fake reports of clowns trying to lure children into a van, according to police and local media, as claims of such sightings spread to a third Southern state.
Police in South Carolina, North Carolina and now Georgia have been on alert in recent weeks, chasing reports of people dressed as clowns and exhibiting creepy behavior. Most cases have not been substantiated, but accounts of costumed characters trying to tempt children with candy or cash rattled residents and prompted increased patrols.
The Troup County Sheriff's Office responded on Wednesday to a report of people dressed as clowns standing outside a white van. Deputies found the van at the scene but no signs of any costumes, the sheriff's office said in a statement on Thursday.
Questioned by investigators, Brandon Jerome Moody, 26, admitted he was aware of recent complaints of clowns in the area and had fabricated the sighting that he called into emergency operators, the statement said.
The sheriff's office said Rebecca Moody, 27, Brandon's sister-in-law according to local media, also called 911 with a false report.
Sheriff James Woodruff told the LaGrange Daily News that the two alleged the clowns were trying to get children to come inside the white van.
Both face misdemeanor charges of obstruction of an officer and unlawful conduct during a 911 call. Jail records on Thursday afternoon listed them as current inmates and did not indicate whether they have lawyers.
"We have zero tolerance for anybody calling in false reports," Woodruff told the LaGrange Daily News.
(Reporting by Colleen Jenkins in Winston-Salem, N.C.; Editing by David Gregorio)