Tue | Oct 17, 2017

‘Scamming’… more bitter than sweet

Published:Tuesday | September 29, 2015 | 12:00 AMAdrian Frater
American law enforcement officials escorting alleged lotto scammer 28-year-old Damion Barrett of Norwood, St. James out of the island last Tursday. Barrett is the first Jamaican to be extradited to the US to answer charges related to the lottery scam.

While the illicit lottery scam was hailed as the great panacea when it first came to the fore in 2006, leaving many districts in and around Montego Bay awash with cash, subsequent happenings have caused many, some of whom have even benefited, to be ruing the spill-over effects of the get-rich-quick scheme.

In what could be described as the proverbial case of 'not all that glitters is gold', many community leaders and other stakeholders in western Jamaica are now lashing out against the illicit scam, which has transformed numerous communities into killing fields.

At a 2008 Gleaner Editors' Forum in Montego Bay, former Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Denver Frater, the then commanding officer of the police's Area One division, said policing had become much more difficult and dangerous since the advent of the cash-rich scammers, some of whom had transformed themselves into gangsters.

"Unless these guys are reined in quickly, the region could pay a heavy price as they have fast cars to move from place to place quickly, and they have high-powered weapons, which can do a lot of damage in terms of homicides," ACP Frater said at the time.

rampant bloodletting

While the illicit scheme created a major financial windfall to sectors such as construction, motor vehicles, and entertainment in the early days, things quickly began to turn sour as in-fighting between rival scammers, some of whom had aligned themselves to gangs, resulted in rampant bloodletting, which included several beheadings.

In fact, since 2006, St James has recorded over 100 murders every year. Within the last two years, the parishes of Westmoreland and Hanover, which have become the romping ground for scammers fleeing police pressure in St James, have also been witnessing unprecedented levels of homicides.

Earlier this year, Dwayne Vaz, the member of parliament for Central Westmoreland, said the scammers, who had seemingly found the town of Savanna-la-Mar to be a fertile space for their unlawful activities, were responsible for the lawlessness, which has been affecting the town.

"You have a lot of high school students, who are brilliant and going through school, who are doing it. They have not reached the working age yet, but it is the fastest option for them," noted the disgruntled Vaz, whose constituency has witnessed numerous scam-related murders since the start of the year.

In Hanover, which once had the enviable distinction of being Jamaica's safest parish, several communities are all but swimming in blood as marauding gangsters are now wreaking havoc. Just last week, there were all of seven scam-related murders within a mere 36-hour period.

In terms of glamour, scamming is no longer a glittering affair, based on the many lives snuffed out in internal feuds. In addition, there has been serious dislocation in many families as scores of persons are now serving time in local prisons, while a few have been extradited to the United States to face justice there.