Tricked into begging - Fake football coach sentenced to two years for human trafficking
Acting Senior Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Sharon Milwood-Moore is making a plea for parents and guardians to exercise greater vigilance in the lives of their children in the wake of the recent conviction of a man who pretended to be a high-school football coach and lured some schoolboys into a begging spree.
"Parents and guardians need to wake up and exercise utmost caution when entrusting their children to others. No child should be endangered because a parent fails to ask pertinent questions before handing them over," Milwood-Moore told The Sunday Gleaner.
The incident surrounds 42-year-old Kirk Allen, of a Portmore, St Catherine address, who pleaded guilty to 11 counts of trafficking in persons and was sentenced to two years' imprisonment on each count. However, he will serve only two years as the sentences are to run concurrently.
FRAUDULENT FOOTBALL CAMP
The court was told that Allen, posing as a football coach, distributed flyers to a number of male students for participation in a weekend football camp at a cost of $1,500 for food and transportation. The parents of five boys agreed for them to go to the camp.
Allen took them to a house in Portmore where they slept the night on a piece of sponge. The following day, he took the boys, who were between 12 and 15 years old, to Spanish Town, St Catherine; May Pen, Clarendon; and St Ann, where they were given forms with the name of a football club and made to beg on the streets.
The second weekend, a parent, worried about her 12-year-old son who had not come home at a reasonable time, contacted the principal, who told her Allen was not associated with the school.
When the son finally returned home, he told his mother what had transpired over the two weekends.
The matter was reported to the police and on the following weekend when Allen arrived to collect the boys, he was met by investigators who arrested him.
He was charged with forced begging under the Trafficking in Persons (Prevention, Suppression and Punishment) Act.
Allen entered a guilty plea on the first relevant date that he appeared in the Home Circuit Court, and Milwood-Moore said that in part accounted for his sentence which was in accordance with the law and the sentencing guidelines published in 2017.
Milwood-Moore noted that Allen did not waste judicial time, nor did he force the young complainants or their parents to testify in court.
She said evidence of good character was led on Allen's behalf and the court took into account that he had been in custody for close to a year before the case came to trial.
But Milwood-Moore warned that human trafficking is an extremely serious offence and the law is geared to punish those who target and exploit others, especially the vulnerable, for their own selfish gain.