MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica – A number of Montego Bay based policemen are said to be among the beneficiaries of the illicit multi-million dollar ‘lottery scam’, which the police High Command says is partly responsible for the spate of gruesome murders in the western city.
According to a Sunday Gleaner source with close ties to the scam, in which American citizens are conned into sending money to local scam artists via local remittance establishments, a group of policemen has been targetting persons sent to collect the illicit booty and relieving them of the cash.
“You have some policemen who hang around these places daily and once they see a person they consider suspicious coming out, they usually accost them,” said the source. “If the pick-up person cannot convince them that the money collected is legitimate, they just take away the money and pocket it.”
When contacted for a comment on the alleged involvement of policemen in the lottery scam, Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Leslie Green, who has portfolio responsibility for Serious and Organised Crime, said he had heard the allegation.
“We have intelligence that it is taking place,” said ACP Green, who, in a recent address to the Montego Bay Rotary Club claimed that there was a high level of police corruption in Montego Bay.
“It came up in a seminar we are having in Montego Bay today (Friday) and we definitely will be taking steps to address it.”
The lucrative scam, which has left several Montego Bay inner-city communities awash with cash, is being operated by persons known as ‘diallers’. They use illicitly-obtained personal information about American citizens to con them into sending them money on the pretext that they had won a lottery and needed to send them money to clear their winnings.
A Hanover woman was recently arrested and charged in connection with the scam after policemen, acting legitimately, caught her collecting the money she had conned an American woman into sending her. The victim of the scam has reportedly agreed to come to Jamaica to testify against the accused woman.
“We have been catching people but before now we used to have a difficulty getting the victims to come here and testify in court,” a police source told The Sunday Gleaner. “Thankfully, we now have a person who is willing to come and have the matter dealt with in court.”
Further investigations by The Sunday Gleaner have revealed that the police could be much deeper in mire surrounding the scam than just fleecing the ‘diallers’ at the cambios. Reports are that some lawmen are offering protection services to ‘diallers’, who are locked in feuds with other scam artistes or are being targeted by gunmen.
“You have policemen who are rolling around town with ‘diallers’ offering them protection from their enemies,” said The Sunday Gleaner source. “Other ‘diallers’ have recruited gunmen to protect them so we are looking at a potentially dangerous situation.”
Conflict in Scam
During a recent upsurge in violence in Montego Bay, ACP Denver Frater, who is in charge of the CIB portfolio, said police intelligence had revealed that some of the recent killings had their genesis in conflicts involving persons with ties to the scam.
“We are aware of the scam and we have identified some of the players,” he said at the time. “We are now gathering information and will be moving in on some of these players before long.”
Investigators have linked gruesome incidents such as the killing of 24-year old chef, Jason Stephenson, who was shot between his eyes, beheaded and buried in a shallow grave; the double murder of 19-year-old Rayon ‘Tribal’ Smith, former member of the notorious ‘Stone Crusher’ gang; and, Jason McPherson, a 22-year-old law student, to the scam.