Crooks reportedly bag millions from sale of Naseberry Villa lots
A suspected land scam in which hundreds of persons are believed to have lost millions of dollars has been uncovered in Naseberry Villa, an informal development near Kitson Town, St Catherine. The Housing Agency of Jamaica (HAJ) has been conducting...
A suspected land scam in which hundreds of persons are believed to have lost millions of dollars has been uncovered in Naseberry Villa, an informal development near Kitson Town, St Catherine.
The Housing Agency of Jamaica (HAJ) has been conducting a regularisation drive for 560 lots in the area. One hundred titles have now been handed out to persons who were living on the state-owned land when it was under the control of the now-defunct Operation Pride.
However, as the state agency handed out titles for legitimate purchases on Wednesday, it was revealed that more than 200 people now occupying lots in the area had purchased property from crooks at much higher rates than the actual selling price. The unauthorised sellers were reportedly pocketing between $350,000 and $800,000 per lot.
Among the victims are a number of Jamaicans living overseas.
A number of victims, who spoke to The Gleaner on Wednesday, were distressed to discover that they were not part of the regularisation process after the HAJ could not account for their purchases.
“I was given a receipt to show that I bought my piece from a construction company and paid $350,000 for my lot,” one woman told our news team. “I paid in full and was told that the Ministry of Housing was preparing my title. I can't believe that I got fleeced.”
The woman showed The Gleaner a copy of a receipt for the $350,000 payment. The header bears the name of a construction company, which is registered with the Companies Office of Jamaica.
“I was led to believe that it was a legitimate land deal and the persons from the construction company were acting on behalf of the Ministry of Housing,” she explained, still in disbelief.
Two other persons also had similar receipts showing that they had paid for lots in Naseberry Villa.
One resident, who received her title from the HAJ on Wednesday, said that the scam had been going on for a while, but those who were suspicious of the sellers kept silent out of fear for their lives.
“The thing bigger than me. Some even pay up to $800,000 for lots with views. The man dem drive big car and have receipt book, so everybody think seh dem legitimate now come to find out seh dem a fraud,” the resident said.
When The Gleaner called the office of the construction company, a woman, who declined to identify herself, said the entity was not in the business of selling lands.
She said that the company was aware of receipts bearing its name being tendered in exchange for cash in land deals, adding that the matter has been reported to the police.
When contacted, the St Catherine South police could not verify whether any such report had been made.
At a community meeting on Wednesday, HAJ Senior Manager for Community Development Nikia McMorris urged residents who have purchased lands from unauthorised people or entities to make attempts to recover their monies.
“Naseberry Villa has been plagued with persons selling lots, which is a serious concern to the HAJ. We have put up signs to inform the residents about these [illegal] purchases and they were taken down,” McMorris said.
“If you have paid monies to persons or bodies, you need to get it back. The only entity that owns the land is the Government,” she stressed.
St Catherine West Central Member of Parliament Dr Christopher Tufton said efforts are being made to prevent any further illegal sale of lands in the settlement.
“Those who are selling the lands and are not authorised to do so are committing an illegal act, and if we have to involve the police, we will,” he told the residents, adding that the HAJ census would determine the extent of the scam.
Tufton said that the HAJ would endeavour not to make victims out of the persons who are there illegally.
“We are going to try and put them in a good place,” Tufton said.
The situation comes after a similar scheme was discovered close to Clifton, which is also in St Catherine, where unauthorised people were also selling plots of land belonging to the Government. At least one person has so far been charged in connection to that scheme.