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EDITORIAL - Scammers must pay first

Published:Wednesday | June 13, 2012 | 12:00 AM

We are afraid we have to ask for more and demand greater clarity from the Montego Bay city leaders whose comments on the lottery scam were reported by this newspaper yesterday.

For, on the face of it, unless they were being deliberately glib, they seemed to conflate cause and effect and believe that people should be rewarded for criminal behaviour and not face punishment.

The lottery scam - which a police task force has been established to crush - is essentially a cybercrime of fraud and identity theft. It is largely based in Montego Bay on Jamaica's northwest shores.

The perpetrators hack the personal information of mostly elderly Americans from call centres or buy the data from corrupt employees of these facilities. The victims are then told they have won lotteries, but required to transfer money into the scammers' accounts before recouping their rewards.

Links to murder wave

The scam has bilked people of hundreds of millions of dollars, broken many lives and fuelled crime in western Jamaica. More than 200 murders, it is said, have been linked to the fraud network in Jamaica in half a dozen years.

However, the scammers had a lot of money to flash around, although it appears that they have fallen under increasing pressure.

But few, if any, have so far been convicted. And it appears that won't be the case in the world of a respected Montego Bay city leader like Mark Kerr-Jarrett, who also has a national profile.

The scammers, Mr Kerr-Jarrett notes, are "ingenious". That, perhaps, they are.

Now, if they could channel that intelligence into legitimate employment solutions, "we would be on the path to fill the void created by the (disruption of the) scam".

Davon Crump, president of the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce, rightfully wants resources to be put in place "for persons to get skilled or start their own businesses".

This newspaper, of course, supports such interventions, but believes the argument, as articulated by city officials such as Messrs Kerr-Jarrett, Crump and O. Dave Allen, fails to address an important element.

What of accountability?

They appear to suggest a seamless transition from the hacker and identity thief and purveyor of death, to legitimate clerks, customer service representatives or entrepreneurs. There seems to be no need for calling people to account.

That, for sure, would not be the intent of Messrs Kerr-Jarrett, Crump or anyone else. For that, they understand, is a failure of Jamaica - our penchant for moving on and accommodating our actions with a hike in our threshold of tolerance. So, we tolerate 500 homicides a year, then 1,000, on to 1,600, with no one, or very few, ever paying the price for the crime.

We say yes to steering potential new recruits from crime, the lottery scam included. Reform and rehabilitate the existing criminals, but that must include having them pay for their crimes.

Should they avoid punishment, it would be tantamount to again victimising the victim, by denying him justice. And that, we know, wouldn't be the intent of the MoBay city leaders.

The opinions on this page, except for the above, do not necessarily reflect the views of The Gleaner. To respond to a Gleaner editorial, email us: or fax: 922-6223. Responses should be no longer than 400 words. Not all responses will be published.