Cops vow to clamp down on 'scam' parties for Christmas
Adrian Frater, News Editor
Western Bureau:With few legitimate alternatives available, the police crackdown on the infamous lottery scam has left several St James communities facing the prospect of an unusually low-key festive season.
"No money nah run," a prominent community leader in the Granville area of the parish told The Gleaner yesterday. "People can't party without money, so we might as well put off Christmas this year.
"In years gone by, you would be seeing a lot of parties and Christmas treats going on at this time," the community leader said. "As you can see, the thing turn down … . So we might not be seeing Santa this year."
Prior to the crackdown, police statistics indicated that, annually, between 2006 and 2010, as much as US$30 million in illicit money was flowing into Jamaica via the lottery scam - a scheme through which American citizens are fleeced. Granville was the epicentre of the scam, followed by areas such as Rose Heights, Lilliput and Rhyne Park.
ACTIVITIES ON THE DECLINE
"We are not seeing the heavy partying again," said head of the Rose Heights Covenant of Peace and councillor for the area, Pastor Knollis King, acknowledging that the scam was in decline.
Based on a recent statement by former St James commanding officer, Superintendent Egbert Parkins, those scammers who escaped the security crackdown and might be in possession of large amounts of cash will not be allowed to use the party circuit to launder that money.
"Intelligence has shown that these people (scammers) arrange lavish parties and give away free armbands to attract a large crowd … . They also give away food and liquor," Parkins said. "The parties are then videotaped and the tapes used to fool bank officials into believing that their illicit monies were generated from these parties."
At the time, Parkins said persons who were applying for party permits would have to convince the police that they were upright and honest before they would be allowed to stage any events.
While Parkins is no longer based in St James, Assistant Commissioner of Police Devon Watkis, the commanding officer for Area One, which includes St James, said the policy would remain in force - not only for St James, but all of Area One.
"We will continue to evaluate all applications to ensure that the activities we sanction are being staged by reputable persons and not criminals," said Watkis.
"At a time like this, there are certain fundamental principles that we must follow in promoting law and order, and while we want people to enjoy themselves, it is important that we don't provide a loophole for criminals," added the senior lawman.
In years gone by, it was not unusual for a scammer to walk into a club and pay for all the liquor on the shelf, allowing other patrons to have a ball at their expense.