'Small fry' lottery scammer gets 10 years to pay $6-m fine

'Small fry' lottery scammer gets 10 years to pay $6-m fine

Thursday, January 28, 2021

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A convicted lottery scammer, who told the court he was afraid to name the mastermind because that would endanger his life and that of his family, has been given 10 years to pay the $6 million that he was fined on conviction.

The scammer, Romander Fletcher, consented to the payment plan when he appeared before the St James Parish Court on January 19, 2021 for a benefit hearing.

Fletcher, a 31-year-old resident of Reading, St James, was employed as a waiter in the hospitality sector when he was convicted in 2015 after pleading guilty to unlawful possession of identity information with intent to use.

Evidence presented in the case revealed that Fletcher benefited to the tune of $11.4 million from his participation in lottery scamming activities over a four-year period leading up to his 2014 arrest.

His role was to collect remittances and direct transfers through his bank account following which he withdrew the funds, thereby ending the paper trail.

Following his conviction Fletcher lost his employment in the hospitality sector and appears to have been blacklisted. However, he claims to now be employed in the construction industry as a mason.

Responding to the court ruling, director of legal services at the Financial Investigations Division (FID) Courtney Smith urged Jamaicans not to breach the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA), under which Fletcher was charged.

“Any role you play, the FID will make you pay,” said Smith as he commented on the pecuniary penalty order (PPO) issued on Fletcher.

“His claim was that he didn't have the money and he was only collecting it for somebody, and he gave it to that person. But the point of this is, whether you are the major player or you're the person who allowed someone else to use your bank account to funnel these funds, we are coming for you.

“It has come to your account, it is yours, and you will be the one to pay [it] back. You have benefited. The law says once you hold it, once you own it within a specific period of committing the offence, it is your benefit from crime. This is not a simple process…your life will be disrupted,” added Smith.

In commenting on the time which elapsed between Fletcher's conviction and the recent benefit hearing Smith said: “His constitutional rights had to be protected, so the court was giving him time to properly instruct his counsel and mount his defence, just so it wouldn't be an issue for appeal if we ever got through that trial. We eventually decided to settle this matter because, having looked through the evidence, he was unable to mount a reasonable defence.”

Among the reasons indicated by his lawyer for Fletcher's inability to mount a reasonable defence is that he was impoverished at the time of his arrest. The FID's investigations indicated a similar position.

When arrested, a sum of just under $500,000 belonging to Fletcher in a savings account was restrained. This represented the only remaining benefit of his criminal lifestyle.

Following the submission of arguments from the FID and Fletcher's defence counsel, he consented to:

1) forfeiture of the funds remaining in his savings account plus the interest accrued;

2) the payment of $6 million to the Government as a pecuniary penalty by order made under the Proceeds of Crime Act;

3) the full benefit of $11.4 million becoming due and payable should he commit another scamming-related offence.

Smith noted that usually this order is payable, by law, within six months of the order, with non-payment being made a criminal offence by the POCA. However, given the circumstances outlined, the FID agreed to receive payments being made in monthly instalments of $50,000 until liquidation (about 120 months).

“The pecuniary penalty order [PPO] is a part of his sentencing. There are several goals which can be achieved by sentencing. There's retribution, where some say we should go for the full benefit plus interest, but there are other goals, like incapacitation, deterrence, and rehabilitation. On a case-by-case basis we [the FID] take a scientific approach to determining the minimum amount that we can receive from the defendant as an acceptable PPO.

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