'No scammers hiding here' - Hoteliers reject claims wanted men are seeking refuge in resorts
Hoteliers in Montego Bay, St James, have rejected claims that murderous lottery scammers are hiding out in luxury hotels on the north coast to elude the police dragnets set up to catch them in nearby communities.
"I have never seen them at my hotel, and I have never heard my members say it. I'm not saying that it doesn't happen, but it is something that the association is not aware of," said Omar Robinson, president of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourism Association.
"Unless these are hotels that are not members of the association, and most of the larger hotels are members," continued Robinson.
He noted that while some hotels still use cash, most of the larger ones on the north coast only take credit cards, which would serve as a deterrent to the cash-carrying criminals.
Chairman of the Tourism Enhancement Fund and past-president of the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce, Godfrey Dyer, also said it was the first time he had been hearing such reports.
"This is news to me. The very first I have heard this. I doubt it very much. I don't think they would take that chance," Dyer told The Sunday Gleaner.
While admitting that the criminals may not be readily discernible by hotel staff, he argued, "They are almost sure that they would be reported on by somebody. There are so many layers of people there who would see them and know.
"We would check in everybody like anyone else. But if you know he is a criminal, you are not going to check him into your hotel. I wouldn't, and I have operated a hotel for 30 years. But if you don't know, then they have to be treated like anybody else."
The irony of Montego Bay criminals hiding out in hotels is striking against the background that many of the additional policemen summoned from outside parishes to quell the ongoing flare-up of violence in St James are put up in hotels in and around the Second City.
But despite the denials from the tourism officials, at least two hotel workers interviewed in St James last week were convinced that criminals are posing as guests in some resorts.
"Montego Bay has no order. Up here, every youth is making their own money, they have their own guns and they are their own dons," related one bellhop, recalling an experience with a "heavy-spending" guest.
"One night, if I didn't make $60,000, I never make anything," he shared, relating how the questionable male guest, about 24 years old, paid him huge sums to sign up paperwork, allowing him to stay at the hotel. He said the youngster also paid him to take breakfast and dinner to him, and to do just about anything else that demanded that he never left the room.
"He was from one of the communities down here. He didn't want anyone to see him here, either. I told him that he could leave the room and go down to the beach, but not even there he wanted to go," said the bellhop.
According to the hotel worker, the young man stayed at the hotel for four nights, ordered lobster twice, and upon both deliveries, invited him to take payment from a wad of cash on a table inside the room.
Even on his day off, the bellhop said the young guest called his cellular phone, requesting that he appoint another trusted employee to carry out the services.
"Even if they are scammers, we wouldn't know. They might look a certain way with the bleaching and certain dressing, but even if you think it, we can't be sure, and you can't just look at them and know. Even so, we still have to serve them. They are guests," said 'Sasha', a female worker at a hotel on the Montego Bay hip strip.
While some member of the police force operating in St James told The Sunday Gleaner that they also believe that criminals are hiding out in some hotels, a senior police officer close to the Montego Bay situation declined to comment on it.
"I can't comment on that and you must understand why. If I do that, and it is indeed so, that would only tip them off," said the senior officer.
The police officer, who asked not to be named, said the investigators are following several leads, and that as late as Thursday, 12 men were detained for their suspected role in the gun violence that has been plaguing Glendevon in Montego Bay.
The cops said that during an operation last week, two AK 47 rifles, one Uzi submachine gun, a 9mm pistol and a large number of rounds were seized in bushes in Lime Tree, Glendevon.
St James has recorded twice the number of murders committed in any other police division since the start of the year. Police figures reveal that 200 persons have been murdered in St James since January.