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Laws have no teeth against scammers

Published:Friday | April 20, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Deputy Commissioner of Police Glenmore Hinds says legislation and the sheer number of persons involved in the lotto scam are major concerns for the police.

"There is in fact a deficiency in our current legislation to seriously impact the activity," he said yesterday.

Hinds was speaking during a press briefing hosted by Julian Robinson, state minister for science, technology, energy and mining, at his New Kingston office.

Hinds noted that charges usually laid against scammers are heavily restricted to the Larceny Act. He said obtaining money by means of false pretence, conspiracy to defraud and money laundering are among the common charges.

"These are offences that do not attract significant punishment," Hinds said.

Comparing responses

He compared the response to the scam by the US Federal Trade Commission, where the activity is being treated as a federal matter, to Jamaica where it is viewed as fraud.

Hinds said approximately 30,000 calls are made to the country by Jamaican criminals involved in the scam. He also noted hindrances in the local judicial system.

"These offences and these cases join the long list of other cases on the court list, and the court list ... suffers from severe backlog."

He also opined that there was "a liberal approach by some judges in granting bail and persons are subject to light sentences".

He urged that assessment of the scam must be an ongoing activity, and highlighted challenges in the mobility of the force and the expertise of investigators.

"One of the significant challenges is that the victims are outside Jamaica and it is difficult to get statements from them to help our investigations," he noted.

Disposable phones

He also revealed a difficulty in tracing scammers is linked to prepaid mobile phones.

"You buy a phone, you scam, you discard it," he explained. Using a slide presentation, Hinds indicated the number of different sectors/persons involved in the scam. They include cashiers at remittance centres, bank staff, data entry clerks, airline staff and taxi men.

"We have anecdotal evidence that persons dropped out of school to pursue a career in scamming," he revealed.

Asking for patience, Hinds noted that the Organised Crime Investigation Division has to go through various documents coming from hotels, banks, remittances and even car dealers.

"You recognise that investigating the scam is, in fact, a strategic activity that requires time. Like all persons, we want instant results."

He said there were 221 cases being dealt with now, 139 of them locally. Hinds said he expected anywhere between one and 10 persons to be extradited, something the JCF is pushing for.

"We believe that if persons are extradited to the US they will get their just deserts," he said.