More lotto scam extraditions pending
Adrian Frater and Christopher Thomas, Gleaner Writers
While Montego Bay man, Damion Barrett, is set to create history tomorrow when he becomes the first Jamaican to be extradited to the United States (US) for his alleged involvement in the illicit lottery scam, other local players could be following him soon as the police have reported that more requests for extradition have been made.
"There are other extradition requests pending, but we do not want to alert anyone. That would be compromising operations here ... but I can tell you that there are other requests," Special Corporal Kevin Watson, the media relations officer for the Lottery Scam Task Force, told The Gleaner yesterday.
According to documents presented to the Corporate Area Resident Magistrate's Court, during Barrett's recent extradition hearings, prosecutors in the Southern District of Florida want him to stand trial on two counts of wire fraud. Each count carries a maximum prison sentence of 30 years.
Reports are that United States-based Jamaican, Oneike Mickhale Barnett, who confessed to being part of a lottery scam operation masterminded by Barrett, is expected to testify against Barrett.
When quizzed about the specifics of the case against Barrett, Special Corporal Watson stated that although Barrett is to be extradited and is to stand trial in another jurisdiction, he was not at liberty to comment on the case against him.
"Although he (Damion Barrett) has been ordered extradited, the matter is still before the court ... and we are not supposed to discuss certain things ... it would be interrupting the investigative process," said Watson. "When the matter is before the court, whether here or out of our jurisdiction, there are certain things we are not supposed to discuss."
The lotto scam, which came to the fore in 2006 with the community of Granville in St James, is a scheme by which local fraudsters con unsuspecting United States citizens, especially the elderly, into believing that they have won a multimillion-dollar Jamaica lottery. The victims are then asked to pay various processing fees for the release of the fictitious funds.
In March 2013, US senators Susan Collins and Bill Nelson urged a special committee in Washington, D.C., to seek to have Jamaican lottery scammers extradited to that country to stand trial after revealing that American citizens had lost more than US$300 million to the scammers.
Despite targeting the scammers with numerous policing initiatives, the scammers have been playing a cat and mouse game with law enforcement, using several methods, inclusive of 'money mules' to prolong their illegitimate activities.
In waiving his rights to fight the extradition request, Barrett reportedly admitted that he had defrauded 10 persons of about US$120,000.