Assistant Commissioner of Police Les Green.
Adrian Frater, News Editor
The local police are poised to open a new front in their war against the illicit Montego Bay 'lotto scam', as, come next week, a team of investigators will be travelling to the United States (U.S.) on an intelligence/evidence-gathering mission.
"We have just finalised arrangements to send a team of officers to the United States next week to speak to victims of the scam," Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Les Green, head of the Major Intelligence Task Force, told The Sunday Gleaner. "The information we are seeking should help us to build cases against those involved in the scam."
Green also noted that the scam, which is operated by local con artists known as 'diallers', remains quite rampant, with unsuspecting United States citizens being relieved of large sums of money, including their life savings, on a regular basis.
"Just last week, we had another case where a U.S. citizen was relieved of US$445,000 after he was fooled into wiring the money to Jamaica," Green reported. "We are having an increasing number of cases in which people are being relieved of their money in this manner."
The lottery scam, which left several Montego Bay communities awash with cash last year, involves using illicitly obtained personal information on American citizens to con them into sending money to the 'scammers' on the pretext of clearing monies won in a Jamaican lottery.
"We have reason to believe that the money generated by the scam is being used to purchase many of the high-powered weapons that have been surfacing in the city's criminal underworld," said ACP Denver Frater, head of the Criminal Investigation Branch (CIB). "Needless to say, these are weapons figuring in the murders."
Expansion to other areas
While noting that Montego Bay remains the epicentre of the scam and the area of greatest concern, ACP Green said investigations have shown an expansion to other parts of the island to include Kingston and Mandeville.
"The recent kidnapping situation in Maverley, which led to the murder of a woman, had ties to the Montego Bay scam," Green disclosed. "The two kidnapped victims came from Montego Bay to live in Maverley, and because they were so active in the scam, the gangs in the area decided to target them."
In addition to the spate of murders, including at least five beheadings in Montego Bay, which the police have linked to the scam, Green said a recent murder in Mandeville and the recent Kingston incident point to the perpetrators spreading to other parts of the island.
While there is has been no high-profile police arrest since two major crackdowns in Montego Bay back in February and June, Green said the police were still pursuing the scammers vigorously.
"We are currently gathering evidence and there are a number of persons who are now before the court," added Green. "There will be more operations like the Kingfish operation earlier this year in which 10 persons were nabbed."
He admitted that the procedure to get police personnel to travel to the U.S. for investigation purposes is somewhat tedious and time consuming, taking sometimes more than a month, to process the request through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and have it sanctioned by the Director of Public Prosecutions. But, Green said, progress was being made in that regard.
"We have been getting reasonably good cooperation from victims in the United States, as they have been helping us to build our cases against some of those persons we arrested in Montego Bay earlier this year," said ACP Green. "It is a lot of hard work but we are making progress."
Two weeks ago, a New Jersey grandmother, identified as 72-year old Ann Mowle, reportedly committed suicide after she was conned out of her life savings of US$248,000 by a Montego Bay dialler.
Frustrated by her inability to reclaim her money, she killed herself.
"We were aware of that case because it was one of those we were investigating," said Green. "It is really sad that she took her own life."