Extradite them! - Justice minister vows to sign requests for scammers as soon as court orders them
Justice Minister Delroy Chuck is warning that tough measures will be implemented to break the back of the lottery scam, which is believed to be at the heart of much of the violence that has plagued western Jamaica since last year.
Among the measures could be a sharp increase in the number of scammers being extradited to the United States (US) to face the courts there for bilking Americans out of millions of dollars.
"I will have no difficulty signing the warrants of extradition once the parish judges make the orders," Chuck told The Gleaner, as he noted that scammers were getting away with the extortion of vulnerable elderly people in the US and "that criminality cannot be condoned".
INCREASE IN MURDERS
Commenting on the increase in the murder rate, particularly in western Jamaica, Chuck said, "The worst part of the scheme is that the offenders start to fight and kill off one another, so Jamaica has a keen interest to have the criminals completely deterred and stopped. It is obvious that unjust and illicit enrichment creates further criminality, especially violent crimes, as scammers fight over illicit means, and this is easily seen from the increase in murders in western Jamaica. So it is not in the interest of anyone, including scammers, that this criminality should continue.
"And if extradition can send the right signal, so be it," added Chuck, as he told our news team that so far he has not signed any warrants.
According to the justice minister, the US is keen on getting the scammers who prey on the elderly in that country. He said scamming is a crime that US law-enforcement agencies have great interest in.
Chuck noted that once the US has the evidence to have the scammers extradited, he had no doubt the extradition process would begin, and if proven in a parish court, then he would have no difficulty signing the warrants.
In the meantime, Jeremy Taylor, senior deputy director of public prosecutions, has confirmed that so far only one extradition case involving alleged scammers is before the courts. This involves eight Jamaicans, including a policeman. The hearing began last week and is to continue on September 12.
But even as that case continues, Senior Superintendent of Police Clifford Chambers has warned that the police are close on the heels of other suspected scammers.
Chambers, who heads the police Counter-Terrorism and Organised Crime unit, said lottery scammers are changing their methods of collecting the money in an effort to avoid detection.
According to Chambers, the use of money-transfer companies to move the illicit funds into the island has been significantly reduced. Instead, the scammers are using persons to travel and physically bring in the money. He said some of these couriers claim they get 10 per cent of the proceeds.
He noted that the police have already arrested and charged several suspected scammers, with Westmoreland now figuring prominently as the base of operation.
But Chambers noted that despite the arrest and some convictions, the ranks of the scammers continue to swell.
"There is a huge pool of youth readily available to fill the breach of those arrested," Chambers disclosed, as he expressed concern about the social problems facing young people who turn to scamming.
He said a new operational unit is to be launched soon by his department to fight lottery scamming.
"The way forward is to confront and defeat lottery scammers as a precursor to decreasing the country's violent crime rate," said Chambers.
"If you control lottery scamming, you will be taking away the resources to purchase arms and ammunition, with gangsters benefiting directly or indirectly and providing protection for lottery scammers."
The first Jamaican extradited to the US for lottery scamming was 30-year-old Damion Bryan Barrett of Montego Bay, St James. He was sentenced in June 2015 to four years' imprisonment after he pleaded guilty to lottery fraud. Barrett was also ordered to pay US$94,456 in restitution.