Regional

Westmoreland takes lead

Scammers moving further west, police say

BY HORACE HINES Observer West reporter

Thursday, May 15, 2014    

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SAVANNA-LA-MAR, Westmoreland - THE police are reporting that Westmoreland has overtaken St James as the leading parish in which the lucrative lottery scamming activities are being conducted.

Last Sunday, 22 persons, including four women, were arrested for breaches of the Law Reform (Fraudulent Transaction) (Special Provisions) Act by MOCA's Anti Lottery Scam Task Force, during simultaneous operations in four Westmoreland communities.

"Based on the operations we have been carrying out so far, Westmoreland is seemingly becoming the lottery scamming capital.

Sunday's operation is one of those operations which really shows that," Corporal Kevin Watson, media liaison and communication officer for the lottery scam task force, told the Jamaica Observer West.

According to Corporal Watson, the 22 persons were arrested following the search of over 40 premises in several communities across Westmoreland.

He argued, however, that the number of arrests could have been much greater if persons were present at their premises where items used in the lottery scam were found.

He added that during the raids, members of MOCA's Anti-Lottery Scam Taskforce, the Mobile Reserve and the Westmoreland police discovered "hundreds of millions" of identity data, at the premises searched in the communities of Belvediere, Lambs River, Petersfield and Cornwall Mountain.

"Two motor cars, a police ballistics vest, computers, computer tablets, cellular phones and a large quantity of lead lists, containing information on their US targets, were seized during the operations," explained the media liaison and communication officer for the lottery scam task force.

"Lead lists were found hidden in different parts of the premises searched, including in shoes, in books, furniture, under rocks and outside the houses."

Up to last year the police had said that St James was the main parish where lottery scamming activities were thriving.

In fact, the parish was dubbed by many persons as the "lotto capital."

But Corporal Watson told the Observer West this week that hard work by law enforcers has resulted in the scaling down of scamming activities in St James.

"I think we have put a major dent on the operations in St James because unlike Westmoreland where we have found quantities of lead lists, we are finding less and less in St James," he argued.

Meanwhile, Corporal Watson said the police have uncovered the emergence of a new trend among players in the illegal sweepstakes in Westmoreland, whereby extensive identity information of their intended targets is stored on electronic devices.

"We have found that many of this information much does not only contain persons' names, addresses, social security numbers, but I must outline one of the interesting things about this particular operation carried out on Sunday in Westmoreland is that at one of the locations we conducted some preliminary analysis of certain electronic devices and we found complete profiles of persons living overseas," he explained.

"Now these profiles contain more than just the ordinary names, addresses, telephone numbers and social security numbers, but these profiles now have extended information, such as some of the victims medical records; they have their employment history, places where they have worked, their close family members, present and previous addresses, Google map print out of the exact location of these persons' houses and so on."

The scammers, he stressed, have armed themselves with those extensive information to convince the mostly elderly US citizens whom they prey upon.

According to Corporal Watson, other new strategies which are being used by the scammers include the use of VISA Master Debit Cards, "whereby the scammers get victims in the US to load money on these cards which are later withdrawn by persons in Jamaica, as well as asking family members to collect money in the United States.

In the meantime, Corporal Watson disclosed that since last year over 200 persons have been charged for breaches of the Law Reform (Fraudulent Transaction) (Special Provisions) Act. And, since the start of this year, he added, more than 100 of those persons have been charged in connection with lottery scamming.

A significant number of them, he noted, are from the parish of Westmoreland.

The police have long argued that the gains from the illegal sweepstakes are often used to purchase illegal guns for gangsters who wreak havoc on rival players in the lottery scam.

A large number of the homicides committed across the western region, police have theorised, have been linked to the lottery scam.

Meanwhile, 10 of the 22 persons taken into custody in Westmoreland on Sunday have been released. The remaining 12 are expected to be charged later this week.

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