Lawyers among professionals on US-Ja scamming radar
A number of Jamaican attorneys who United States (US) authorities believe are helping lottery scammers hide their ill-gotten gains could be swept up in the wave of extradition requests that American prosecutors are preparing to unleash on the Jamaican Government.
That is the word from an American official in Jamaica who confirmed yesterday that several local attorneys are the subject of federal investigations in the US because of their suspected ties to persons involved in the deadly multimillion-dollar advance fee or lottery scam. The lawyers are among the wider network of persons being investigated.
Joshua Polacheck, counsellor for public affairs at the US Embassy in Kingston, declined to go into details about the investigations but warned that some of the cases involving Jamaican attorneys are at the "pre-extradition" stage.
"I'm not sure if they know they are under actual federal investigation, but they know who they are," Polacheck told The Gleaner.
"The attorneys facilitating the scammers, they know themselves. I'm sure they know that," he underscored.
The disclosures by Polacheck came as a surprise to newly elected president of the Jamaican Bar Association, Jacqueline Cummings.
She acknowledged that the association has not had any formal discussions about how attorneys should interact with clients who are facing lottery scam-related charges and does not see the need for it.
"Lottery scamming is a relatively new phenomenon, but the same principles and ethics must be applied as with other any other crimes," Cummings reasoned.
Eight alleged scammers faced American court yesterday
On Wednesday, Joshua Polacheck told reporters that Jamaican and American law-enforcement agencies were jointly pursuing some 5,000 lottery scam investigations and that between 300 and 500 cases were at the "pre-extradition stage".
The announcement came as eight Jamaicans, including Police Constable Jason Jahalal, were being loaded on to an aircraft at the Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston to be extradited to the state of North Dakota to stand trial on lottery scam-related charges.
Polacheck confirmed that Jahalal and his co-accused, Dario Palmer; Alrick McLeod; O'Neil Brown; Dahlia Hunter and her son, Kazrae Gray; Kimberly Hudson; and Xanu-Ann Morgan faced a judge in Bismarck, North Dakota, yesterday and were "processed into the federal system".
They are each charged with one count of conspiracy and attempting to commit wire fraud, 48 counts of wire fraud, 15 counts of mail fraud, and one count of money laundering. According to prosecutors in North Dakota, the eight were part of a criminal organisation led by another Jamaican - identified as Lavrick Willocks - that used an advance fee or lottery scam scheme to fleece nearly 80 elderly American citizens of $US5.6 million.
Polacheck warned that their extradition marked the start of a multipronged, multiyear initiative to crush the Jamaican lottery scam.