BY ALICIA DUNKLEY-WILLIS Observer senior reporter firstname.lastname@example.org
SUPERINTENDENT of Police Leon Clunis, head of the Lottery Scam Task Force, says the planned introduction of legislation to punish scammers including persons in possession of items linked with the racket will be the game-changer the police needs.
"Give us that and it will be a different ball ground, and it will be a great turnaround for Jamaica, I can guarantee you that much; we have the will to do the work, what we need is legislation at this time," Clunis told the Jamaica Observer yesterday.
He was responding to queries about the findings of the Caribbean Policy and Research Institute (CaPRI), published this week, which showed that more than 90 per cent of the victims being conned by lottery scammers were not reporting that they have been duped.
While noting that he could not speak to the specifics of the research paper, Clunis told the Observer that the promised changes to the Evidence Act to, among other things, allow video testimony from lottery scam victims abroad would make inroads.
"... What I can tell you is if that (law allowing video testimony) is passed then certainly it will assist, because persons will now be sensitised to the fact that they don't have to travel to Jamaica to further that embarrassment, or whatever the cause is that why are not coming forward," the senior police superintendent said.
"I figure the same aspect [of the law] will also treat with paraphernalia of lottery scamming which means you don't have to actually have persons coming here to deal with some aspects of the investigation and charges which could lead to conviction, because if those become illegal then certainly that, in and of itself ,might not be the whole picture but you could get some convictions alongside the investigations," he pointed out.
At present, there is no specific legislation in place to deal with advance fee fraud, the generic term for scamming. As a result, the police have been unable to charge a number of persons who were detained after being found with lead sheets, magic jacks, and other equipment used in the lottery scam.
That, to the head of the Lottery Scam Task Force, is a major roadblock.
"The fact that the paraphernalia of lottery scamming are not illegal at this time, and that's why the Government is trying to go to make these things illegal because we have been finding a lot of personal information for persons abroad — called lead sheets or lead lists — in computers and phones — and we can't charge anybody for them," he explained.
He said the police have been trying to find their way around that particular obstacle until the legislation is introduced.
"What we have to be doing is to try and find victims abroad from them (lead lists) and we have been finding a few, but the very fact that they are found, if those things are illegal we could go right ahead and charge them for it," Superintendent Clunis said.
"Those are some of the main ones (obstacles) and the scammers are very aware that legislatively we are weak, and that is why they continue doing what they are doing. What we need is legislation at this time," Clunis told the Observer.
In September, National Security Minister Peter Bunting said legislation to throw the books at those involved in the lotto scam, including persons found with paraphernalia linked with the racket, should be before Parliament by next year. This would mean that persons could be arrested for having lead lists — databases containing thousands of names, addresses and other personal contact information often used by scammers to target and con their victims.
Bunting, who was addressing members of the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry at the time, said that in an effort to support the anti-scamming efforts of the police, the Government would also seek to amend existing legislation such as the Evidence Act.