Mon | Jan 20, 2020

High-priced hideouts - Gangsters stay off police radar in glitzy guest houses, villas, apartments

Published:Thursday | January 16, 2020 | 12:35 AMAdrian Frater/News Editor

WESTERN BUREAU:

Many of St James’ most ruthless gangsters and other migratory hoodlums are trading in slums for pricey villas and guest houses as hideouts in a bid to escape scrutiny from the police.

The emerging pattern began to take shape a decade ago when lottery scammers, many aligned to criminal gangs, were flush with cash fleeced from mainly ageing foreigners. Some opted to ‘floss’ by purchasing or renting out lavish guest houses, apartments, villas, and small hotels, but others chose those settings to escape police scrutiny. That strategy, police sources indicate, is becoming the standard operating procedure for the mafia.

“Those (criminals) in ‘big-money’ circles or who have influential backers are no longer hiding out in the regular communities. They are finding themselves rubbing shoulders with the elites of society in exclusive locations,” a police source told The Gleaner.

“On occasions, intelligence led us to where they are and we have managed to arrest some of them. However, these gated communities are usually not places where you expect to find gangsters,” the lawman said.

Much to the surprise of residents at the upscale Mango Walk Country Club, one of Montego Bay’s most exclusive neighbourhoods, gunfire erupted there on Monday evening when Kimani Brown, an alleged contract killer from Kingston, was killed in a reported firefight with the police.

Four of Brown’s cronies, who are allegedly affiliated with a Kingston-based hit squad known as the Sinful Saints, were arrested at the location. Two of the four were on the police’s most-wanted list.

Impossible to know

In giving details on the Mango Walk Country Club incident, Deputy Commissioner of Police Fitz Bailey, who is in charge of crime, said that Brown was being pursued by the police following a murder in Stony Hill, St Andrew, in December.

“The police launched an investigation using a number of agencies, to include our intel and other specialised units. After several enquiries and initiatives, Mr Brown was identified in an operation in St James in a gated community. The police, having breached the premises, Mr Brown pointed a firearm at one of them and he was shot and, unfortunately, died,” said Bailey.

When The Gleaner spoke to a villa owner in Montego Bay about criminals fronting as law-abiding guests at his property, he admitted that it was possible, albeit inadvertently.

“The criminals are usually not the ones who do the booking. They generally get somebody to do it for them,” the villa operator, requesting that his name not be published because of security concerns, said.

“If they come in and operate normally, it is all but impossible to know who they are.”

The St James police have infiltrated high-priced hideouts on several other elite residential properties in Montego Bay.

The parish’s then most wanted man, Nico ‘Bowza’ Samuels, who was linked to the notorious Ski Mask Gang and was a much-feared contract killer, was killed on April 28, 2018, following a blazing gun battle with the security forces at an apartment complex in Hatfield.

In September that year, five men, three of whom were wanted for gun crimes in Cambridge and Spring Mount, were arrested in an operation at Hotel Gloriana. A number of firearms were seized.

adrian.frater@gleanerjm.com