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Scamming on 'decline' but West remains 'epicentre' of activities

Published:Thursday | April 7, 2016 | 12:00 AMJovan Johnson
Inspector Dahlia Garrick (centre), head of the Corporate Communications Unit of the Jamaica Constabulary Force, speaks with members of the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency, while the unit's liaison officer, Superintendent of Police Kevin Watson (left), looks on following a recent operation in Greenwood, St James, which resulted in several men being taken into custody.

Lottery scamming activity is 'declining' in western Jamaica, but that section of the island remains the "epicentre" of the deadly multimillion-dollar illicit business in the island.

That is the assertion by Sergeant Kevin Watson, public relations officer for the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA) West, which covers Trelawny, St James, Westmoreland, and Hanover.

Watson was speaking after providing statistics that show that so far this year, MOCA West has arrested and charged six players, while securing six convictions under The Law Reform Fraudulent Transactions Special Provisions Act 2013, the local law that criminalises lottery scamming.

Last year, MOCA West recorded 126 arrests and 15 convictions.

"There is no doubt that western Jamaica still remains the epicentre of the activities. We're not going to argue that," Watson told The Gleaner.

According to him, MOCA West has been making inroads through the improvements of its investigations and the assistance provided by other law enforcement agencies.

"We are engaged in more proactive investigations, meaning that we are building our cases before making arrests. So instead of reactively going there and arresting persons for identity information, we're building more substantial cases against these persons."


Convictions more likely


The crime fighter anticipates that with the improvements, not only will convictions be more likely, but there will be "greater fines and punitive sanctions in the courts".

"We want to build our cases similar to how we work with the United States' Federal Bureau of Investigation and other law enforcement agencies," he said.

The pressure for the Jamaica Constabulary Force to improve its investigation of crimes such as lottery scamming has come from businesses and residents of the parishes whose communities have been affected by the gun violence associated with scamming-related activities.

Marvin Salabi, a Westmoreland-based sugar cane farmer, has joined the latest calls for more to be done to rid the parish of the illegal activity which, he argues, is crippling businesses.

Last week, revelations came that at least 14 major players involved in lottery scamming in Jamaica are believed to be on the radar of United States authorities who are working with their Jamaican counterparts in an effort to bring local scammers to justice in the United States.

Western Jamaica is critical to the country's tourism industry, which has a gross value of approximately $230 billion and a net annual contribution of an estimated 10 per cent to the gross domestic product.

It is also a significant source of employment.