Police in Martin County, Florida, are zooming in on Jamaica as they track a scam that has left an elderly woman more than US$90,000 poorer over the past two years.
The scam was reported to the Martin County Sheriff last Saturday after the woman had sent a further US$200 to a person in Jamaica through an international money transfer company the previous Monday (September 13).
The woman told the police that she decided to call after a man she knew only as 'Scarface' repeatedly called and said he had hijacked a truck and was going to use it to blow up her house.
That was the latest in a long series of threats that she responded to by sending money to Jamaica.
The Martin County Sheriff Office reported that while a deputy was at the woman's house on Saturday, a young-sounding male called from a Jamaican number and claimed that he was a friend of the woman.
When pressed by the deputy, the man hung up before calling back from a private number.
At that time, the deputy allowed the elderly woman to answer. "Bh, this is Scarface. I know the cops are there. I can't believe you called them on me. I'm going to blow up your house and you are going to die," the man said before being interrupted by the deputy, at which time the caller discontinued the conversation.
According to the Martin County Sheriff Office, last Saturday alone there were four calls to the woman from Kingston, Jamaica.
Prior to deputies intervening, the woman said she had been sending the caller between US$30 and US$200 at a time.
Difficult to track
No arrests have been made and Martin County officials have admitted that it it is very difficult to track people behind scams originating outside the United States.
The deputy advised the woman to get her phone number changed and unlisted; and not answer calls from Jamaica or from private number.
But the elderly woman indicated that she remained in fear because she did not want her house to be destroyed and her family killed if she did not send the money.
This is not the first time that scammers, possibly from Jamaica, have targeted the elderly in Martin County.
Last month, the Economic Crime Unit of the Sheriff's Office reported that it had received an increase in reports of scammers attempting to swindle senior citizens.
It was reported that the scammers contacted their victims by mail, email or phone informing them that they had won a sweepstakes or lottery requesting that the winners send them money to cover taxes.
The detectives urged persons in Martin County not to wire transfer money to people they did not know and not to send money to receive winnings.
US and local authorities have joined forces in a task force, dubbed Jamaican Operations Linked to Telemarketing (JOLT), to target scammers.
Under JOLT, law enforcement agencies from the two countries have been engaged in sharing information, investigators and other resources while gathering consumer complaint information; and contributing to the legwork involved in building a case.
These include surveillance and interviewing victims in an effort to expose and shut down the scammers.
However, up to late Wednesday the local police were unaware of the latest case.