Tyrone Reid, Sunday Gleaner Staff Reporter
A well-placed source inside the postal service told The Sunday Gleaner that illicit funds are being intercepted on a daily basis by customs officials attached to the postal service.
"There has been an increase in the amount of US dollars being found in the mail, and the vast majority is addressed to persons living in Montego Bay," said the highly placed source. "Indeed it is a part of the lottery scam. There is no doubt about it," the informant added.
The source also revealed that in a bid to avoid the cold hard cash from being intercepted, the scammers are getting their victims to send debit cards from which the cash can be withdrawn from ABMs in Jamaica. This was confirmed by the Customs Department and the head of the postal service.
About two weeks ago, customs officials assigned to the CSO intercepted US$15,000 that was sent in an envelope to an address in Montego Bay. The money was all in US$100 notes.
"Almost every day they find a lump sum of money anywhere between US$500 and US$15,000," the source revealed.
The well-placed informant also told our news team that sometimes there is no attempt to disguise the fleeced cash and at other times the scammers employ ingenious ways to get the illicit proceeds from their con through the various security checkpoints undetected. A few years ago, an edition of a popular magazine was opened and a US$100 noted was affixed to every single page, the source said.
The source also pointed out that a number of directories from the US have also been coming through the mail and theorised that the scammers were using the listings to find future victims.
Because of the sheer volume, all the mail that comes into the island is not opened. "We don't open every parcel but the percentage that is opened is determined by customs," Postmaster General Michael Gentles says.
Captain Stephen Beek, chief of security at the Post and Telecoms Department, adds that the scammers have forced the postal service to conduct regular security audits.
"Once you put something in place, they try to put something ahead of you. It is like a chess game," said Beek.
He was confident that the re-emerging use of the postal service has a balloon effect as the police clamp down on the remittance side of the illegal scamming operation.
"We are trying to eliminate all illicit activities and this is high on the agenda (because) it has the potential to put our staff at risk. I am very, very concerned about the potential risk for my staff," said Gentles.
When I saw the type of money (coming in) I was taken aback. I didn't know it was of that magnitude. People will do anything to secure that type of money.