Don’t give scammers a free pass

Sunday, March 12, 2017

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The decision of the court last week to approve an extradition request from the United States for eight Jamaicans accused of involvement in lottery scamming should hopefully open the eyes of people engaged in this illegal activity.

That a serving member of the Jamaica Constabulary Force was among the eight accused was most disappointing, because the Jamaican people have a right to believe that they can repose trust in those among us who have taken an oath to uphold the law.

We have no proof that this constable and his co-accused are guilty of the crime, but we do know that governments do not file extradition requests without having evidence that can withstand judicial scrutiny and which give them confidence that they can secure convictions.

Of course, we will see how all that plays out when these eight accused people go on trial in the United States.

The broader picture, though, is that the Jamaican law enforcement agencies are acting on the provisions of the law passed two years ago to deal with lottery scamming, a scourge that has so tarnished this country’s name abroad.

Just as harmful is the fact that this evil criminal activity is responsible for numerous murders and is ruining the lives of many people, particularly elderly individuals.

The eight people ordered extradited last week are alleged to be part of a criminal organisation that manifested in 2009 in Jamaica and elsewhere, and is accused of having robbed more than 80 people in the United States and elsewhere of US$5.6 million.

We recall that the police previously reported that in 2010, lottery scammers bilked a whopping US$30 million from hapless targets in the state of Minnesota alone.

Readers will also remember that between 2007, when the scam started, and 2009, local police confiscated US$283,000 in cash; and since then, well over $7 million in cash has been taken out of criminal hands connected to the scheme. The police have also seized high-end luxury vehicles and detained well over 100 people, most of them below the age of 30.

We wonder what goes through the minds of parents when they see their teenaged sons and daughters, for instance, in possession of expensive assets for which they are unable to account. Any responsible adult would immediately alert the authorities to this fact, as they would not want to be associated with any activity that provided those assets.

Some years ago this newspaper reported that the police, in one of their anti-lottery scam operations in Montego Bay, arrested a 15-year-old boy who owned at least three houses and three motor cars, yet he was unable to read or write.

What we are seeing here is a culture spawned by a get-rich-quick mentality which has its roots in the sense of entitlement that is still evident in too many of our people.

We reiterate that the few Jamaicans who give support and shelter to lottery scammers should bear in mind that their actions are contributing to murder, the destruction of lives, damaging the country’s reputation abroad, and posing a danger to the jobs of many Jamaicans.

We also repeat our call for every law-abiding Jamaican to consider it their duty to give information to the police about the activities of these criminals, because they are enriching themselves at the expense of the entire country.

Don’t give these scammers any free pass.




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