Fri | Sep 22, 2017

Lotto scam task force now focusing on remittance company workers

Published:Monday | February 6, 2017 | 2:00 AMOkoye Henry
As part of the effort to curb crime, up to 500 members of the Jamaica Defence Force will now be stationed in Montego Bay, St James.

WESTERN BUREAU:

Sergeant Kevin Watson, who heads the local Anti-Lottery Scam Task Force, says the unit has been successful in bringing several major players in the illicit scheme to justice since the start of the year, and increased focus is now being placed on the staff of remittance companies who are supporting lottery scammers.

In an interview with The Gleaner on Saturday, Watson said that since January, more than 10 persons have been arrested and charged with their involvement in lottery scamming, including remittance agents.

"We have also been making arrests of persons who work as agents in the remittance services for facilitating lottery scammers," said Watson. "Remittance services have been working with the police. They want to see these persons removed from their institutions because it is creating problems and causing their business to look bad," he said.

Since the task force was reconstituted last year, the unit has been taking a proactive investigative approach in an attempt to curb the illicit practice in western Jamaica, which is largely viewed as the hub of lottery scamming.

According to Watson, the unit has been effective in apprehending and charging suspected lottery scammers, but it is also deterring former scammers and new persons from getting involved.

"A young man saw me the other day and said, 'Mr Watson, you remember me? You arrested me for lottery scamming ... . I have learnt my lesson and now I have a legitimate job. I am not involved in lottery scamming anymore'," Watson quoted his as saying.

"That speaks magnitudes to the effect we can have on these persons. I've always expressed that for me it is not about punishing persons, but it is about reforming and deterring them from getting involved, showing them an alternate," Watson explained.

Between September and December 2016, more than 20 persons were arrested and charged with their involvement in lottery scamming in the police's Area One division, which comprise Trelawny, St James, Westmoreland and Hanover.

Among those convicted is a United States national, who was found guilty on two charges. He is currently serving 15 months in prison. A wanted man was also arrested with six others following an operation at a hotel in Montego Bay last September.