Scammers playing cat and mouse with cops
Adrian Frater, News Editor
WESTERN BUREAU:Despite the arrest of several players within recent months, a well-placed Lottery Scam Task Force source has confessed to The Gleaner that the 'scammers' are not relenting but are instead engaging law enforcement in a cat-and-mouse game.
"Whenever we target an area, those scammers who are not caught go underground. When the heat is off, they re-surface and resume their illicit activities," said the lawman, who spoke to The Gleaner on condition of anonymity. "They are really stretching our resources ... . It is going to be a long, hard fight to put them out of business."
The lotto scam, which came to the fore in 2006 when several poor St James communities suddenly became awash with cash, is a scheme by which unsuspecting American citizens, especially the elderly, are fooled into believing that they have won a multimillion-dollar lottery but are required to pay various processing fees.
"We have even seen a few cases of recycling scammers, where persons who were arrested and charged and are out on bail are rearrested doing the same thing again," the police source stated. "I know that the members of the task force are fully committed to the task of going after these scammers, but as I have stated before, it is going to be hard fight to put an end to this scourge."
ANSWER TO HARSH TIMES
Unlike some cases in which communities will cooperate with the police in their fight against criminality, many neighbourhoods see the lottery scam as the answer to the harsh economic situation and encourage it.
Earlier this year, National Security Peter Bunting raised hope that the war against the scammers was swinging in favour of the police, revealing that, between the enactment of the Law Reform Fraudulent Transaction Special Provisions Act (lottery scam law) in March 2013 and August 2014, some 600 scammers were arrested.
"I don't think there is any basis to suggest that the situation has got any worse; I believe [it has] improved," Bunting stated at the time. "... Certainly from the intelligence that we get on the ground, the suggestion is that the scammers are under a lot of pressure."
However, while communities like Granville, in St James, which was the epicentre of the scam at its genesis, have turned their backs on scamming, thanks to legitimate projects steered by community leaders, other communities in Hanover, Westmoreland and St Elizabeth have become the new hotbed.
"We have toiled long and hard to take the scamming stigma off Granville, and thankfully it is working," said Michael Troupe, councillor for the Granville division." We have established small-business projects to create employment and we have initiated training programmes to help our youngsters to acquire the skills required to make them marketable."