Police turn up the heat on scammers
Nagra Plunkett, Assignment Coordinator
The police are continuing to turn up the heat on suspected lottery scammers, making arrests while attempting to block up the channels used to launder the millions of dollars they rake in through the scam.
Last week, a tough-talking Superintendent Egbert Parkins told a group of entertainment promoters and stakeholders in St James that no permits will be granted to persons involved in the lottery scam.
"No known lotto scammers who thief money from others for their benefit or gunmen not getting any permit to keep event to go an buy any ammunition or guns to come terrorise the citizens in the city," Parkins told a capacity-filled town hall at the Montego Bay Civic Centre.
Days later, two police operations in the Corporate Area resulted in the arrest of six persons believed to be involved in the scam.
In the first instance, a man and a woman were arrested about Thursday afternoon after the man went to a financial institution to retrieve money from a United States-currency account.
According to the police, local detectives made contact with a victim in the US, who was fleeced of more than US$120,000.
The investigations led the police to the man now in custody.
In the second instance, four persons, including two women, were arrested by police Friday afternoon.
The police say they carried out a raid of two premises where a number of computers with information on the lottery scam, lead lists of potential victims, magic jacks and several television sets were seized.
But even as the police were making their arrests in the Corporate Area, in western Jamaica, the heart of the scam, there was concern about the approach being taken by Parkins, the man recently appointed to head the St James police.
"Not until someone is proven guilty in a court can you label them as a scammer," Montego Bay-based promoter Chevanne Lawrence told The Sunday Gleaner.
Promoter of the eight-year-old Off Tha Wall party series, Nash Lawson, believes that a middle ground has to be found in order to create a harmonious working relationship.
"I don't think he cares. He is just trying to make a signature for himself," Lawson stated.
"Parties are being locked off before the 2 a.m. deadline and even people with club licences are being targeted."
However, police sources told our news team that Parkins has the full support of his superiors.
"His move is in keeping with Police Commissioner Owen Ellington's mandate to render the notorious lottery scam unfashionable," one senior officer said.
The Sunday Gleaner has also learnt that intelligence reports and background checks will also be used to determine if permission should be granted to persons who want to stage entertainment events.
"There are mechanisms that can be used to help determine the decisions for entertainment permits," said the senior officer, who asked not to be named.
He argued that the fact that someone has not been convicted in a court of law does not take away from his involvement in criminal or nefarious activities.
"The police hierarchy plans to immobilise persons with ill-gotten gains from increasing their wealth; or to have their tainted funds get 'a makeover' through entertainment events, and ultimately enter the formal banking system," said the senior officer.
St James has been the hotbed of the lottery scam, in which unsuspecting victims are conned into sending money to claim jackpots. The practice has also been linked to scores of homicides in the parish.