Thu | Oct 29, 2020

Pastor’s son facing stolen identity woes

Published:Friday | October 16, 2020 | 12:15 AMHopeton Bucknor/Gleaner Writer

Western Bureau:

St James taxi operator Tavarie Otis Vernon and his family are hopping mad after a police blunder led to his name and photograph being published in a local newspaper recently, claiming he had escaped police custody from the Cornwall Regional Hospital, where it is said he was being treated.

In an emotional interview with The Gleaner, an obviously upset Vernon, who is the son of a pastor, said he is the victim of identity theft.

He said the embarrassing newspaper story was compounded by the negligence of the police, who failed to do the requisite due diligence.

According to Vernon, he was recently contacted by a person who claimed that he was seeking someone to operate a taxi for him. Since he was seeking a job at the time, Vernon expressed an interest and was asked to provide a photocopy of his driver’s licence.

“The individual told me to copy my driver’s licence and send it to him by WhatsApp as this was needed for insurance reasons,” said Vernon, who urgently complied, not suspecting anything untoward.

After not hearing from the person, Vernon said he thought nothing of it until he was contacted by the police, who said they wanted to question him about a fraudulent driver’s licence bearing his name and address.

“I went to the Barrett Town Police Station last Friday and was questioned by the officers, after which I went home. I then got another call from another police officer, who asked me to report to the Montego Bay Freeport Police Station, and I did. I was questioned by a detective and was told I was free to go home,” said Vernon.

He said he was shocked when his name and photograph were published on the front page of a newspaper this week, saying he had escaped custody and was wanted by the police.

Vernon’s father, Pastor Verton Vernon, said the news is most upsetting to his family, and expressed concern that it could put his son’s life at risk.

“I want this matter to be addressed immediately, because I want my son’s name to be cleared. He has never been in trouble with the law, and he himself will find it difficult to even face the congregation at church, come this Sunday,” said the concerned father.

The Gleaner has subsequently learned that last Friday, police officers assigned to the Barrett Town Police Station were conducting a spot check when they intercepted a vehicle been driven by a man, who they identified as Kemar Ranking, of a Norwood, St James, address.

During a search of the vehicle, the lawmen seized over a dozen fake driver’s licences, one of which had the name Tavarie Otis Vernon. A large sum of money was also found in the car.

Ranking was taken to the Barrett Town Police Station where he allegedly engaged the police in a fight and was injured. He was taken to the Cornwall Regional Hospital but, after his handcuff was removed to facilitate treatment, he ran off.

The cops then provided the incorrect name and photo to the media, triggering the crisis for Vernon.

“We have learned of the incident and have launched an investigation into what really transpired,” a senior police offer told The Gleaner.