Extradition warrants coming in for lotto scammers
Almost two years after lawmakers in the United States (US) demanded that Jamaicans involved in the lottery scam - that has fleeced elderly American citizens of millions of dollars - be sent there to stand trial, there are indications the extradition requests have begun to come in.
Yesterday, a magistrate signed an extradition order for alleged Jamaican lottery scammer Damion Barrett to be handed over to US authorities, and Jamaican law-enforcement sources told The Gleaner last night there were several other cases to come.
"This is just the first one," one source told The Gleaner on condition of anonymity.
According to documents presented during Barrett's extradition hearing in the Corporate Area Resident Magistrate's Court, prosecutors in the Southern District of Florida requested that he be sent there to stand trial on two counts of wire fraud. Each count carries a maximum prison sentence of 30 years.
Barrett, who is from Montego Bay, St James, consented to be extradited.
In documents used to support the extradition request, US authorities revealed that another Jamaican, Oneike Mickhale Barnett, confessed that he, Barrett "and others" were part of a lottery-scam scheme they used to enrich themselves.
Despite this, Director of Public Prosecutions Paula Llewellyn would not comment on whether her office was in possession of additional requests from US authorities.
"I could not comment on that, for obvious reasons," Llewellyn told The Gleaner.
She said all the documentation related to Barrett's extradition should be on Justice Minister Mark Golding's desk by weekend for him to give final authorisation.
In March 2013, US senators Susan Collins and Bill Nelson urged a special committee in Washington to seek to have Jamaican lottery scammers extradited to that country to stand trial. They also chided the Jamaican Government for not acting quickly enough to tackle the scam.
"For too long, Jamaican authorities turned a blind eye to this fraud, which was illegally bringing US$300 million to their economy," Collins told the committee then.
"We want to see them extradited to the US. That will have a chilling effect on a number of people who think they are bulletproof," Nelson said then in support of Collins.
Llewellyn revealed that the extradition request for Barrett was drafted after he was indicted in August 2012.
In the request, she said US authorities allege that Barrett was part of a conspiracy to commit wire fraud through the use of a telemarketing scheme that victimised 10 or more persons over the age of 55.
Llewellyn said the document revealed that Barnett confessed to US law-enforcement personnel that between October 2008 and January 2012, he and Barrett contacted elderly persons there and falsely told them they had won large sums of monies and would have to pay administrative fees to collect their prizes.
It also claimed that Barrett admitted that the scheme defrauded 10 persons of about US$120,000.