Worries in the (scammer and PNP) camps... worriesSunday, May 28, 2017
Yuh pred yuh bed haad, yuh haffi liddung pan i' haad. — Jamaican proverbTranslation: If you spread your bed hard, you must lie on a hard bed.
Explanation: You must accept responsibility for your actions, and whatever you sow, you will surely reap.
Last Sunday, the Jamaica Observer carried a story with the headline 'Lotto scam makes Brand Jamaica hard to sell - official'. Scammers need to get their comeuppance. Those who engage, whether directly and/or indirectly, in the scourge of lotto scamming, I have long argued, should be tried for crimes akin to treason and sentenced accordingly on conviction.
The Sunday Observer piece said, among other things: “A senior official of the Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO) has admitted that the lucrative yet destructive lottery scam, common in the western end of the island, has made Brand Jamaica a tough sell to some investors.” (May 21, 2017)
The umbilical cord
The umbilical nexus between the continued spate of murders, shooting and other serious crimes, especially out in the western part of the island, and lotto scamming is now well established. These recent comments by Oral Heaven, president of the Westmoreland Chamber of Commerce, are instructive: “There is no doubt that lotto scamming contributes significantly to the increase in crime in our parish. [Therefore] the crime-fighting plan of our new commissioner of police must include measures to eradicate this plague.
“His [the commissioner's] crime plan must ensure that there is an Anti-Lottery Scam Police Task Force, with the best resources and technology available to them, so that they can provide public education and have the capabilities to target these fraudulent activities in order to prevent the serious consequences of an entrenched lotto scamming.”
Lotto scamming, Heaven maintained, “is fuelling the spiralling murders and other major crimes in his parish”. ( Observer, April 20, 2017)
The road to here
A CNN documentary named the late Kenley “Bebe” Stephenson as the “godfather of scamming in Jamaica”.
On May 27, 2014, the Old Lady of North Street carried an article entitled ' 'Bebe' murdered gangland-style, J-FLAG wants speedy investigation'. The article said, among other things:
“Friends and associates have reacted with shock to Sunday night's gangland-style killing of Montego Bay-based political activist Kenrick 'Bebe' Stephenson.
“Montego Bay's deputy mayor, Councillor Michael Troupe, who has known Stephenson since he was a child and had subsequently worked closely with him on the political campaign trail for the ruling People's National Party (PNP), described him as a friend.
“ 'People might say a lot of things about him, but he was a loyal and dependable person,' said Troupe, who is councillor for the Granville Division, where Stephenson grew up. 'He will be sadly missed.'
“Stephenson, known for his openly gay lifestyle, was recently elected vice-chairman of the PNP's Western Central St James constituency.
“Yesterday, the PNP said it was saddened by news of his death.”
The Gleaner piece of May 27, 2014 also gave these details: “The colourful Stephenson, who was quite prominent on the social circuit in western Jamaica, has had several run-ins with the law over the years.
“Following his May 2012 arrest by the Anti-Lottery Scam Task Force, Superintendent Leon Clunie described him as a major player in the scam.
“ 'Bebe is one of the founders of the illegal lottery scam,' said Clunie, the head of the task force at the time. 'He has been living a luxurious lifestyle, yet he has never, from our understanding, been employed in any of the services in Jamaica.”
Another Gleaner story, entitled 'PNP exec 'Bebe' laid to rest', published on June 23, 2014, delivered these revelations:
“People's National Party (PNP) executive and popular Montego Bay figure Kenley 'Bebe' Stephens was yesterday laid to rest after two thanksgiving services in St James.
“One of the funerals was held at the Holy Trinity Zion Church and the other at the Granville Deliverance Centre.
“Stephens, also known as Kenrick Stephenson, was shot dead last month.
“The police had described him as a major player in the lottery scam operations in Montego Bay.
“Stephens also served as vice-chairman of the PNP's West Central St James constituency.
“Reverend Juavene Guthrie, the assistant pastor at Holy Trinity, broke down in tears after reading a congratulatory card that was given to her by the deceased following her pastoral appointment some time ago.
“At the second funeral at the Granville Deliverance Centre, Government members Derrick Kellier and Sharon Ffolkes-Abrahams said Stephens was selfless, and recalled his contribution to his community and the PNP.
“In honour of the fallen Comrade, the councillor for the Granville Division, Michael Troupe, announced the establishment of a scholarship for a student living in Granville.”
Those public figures who attended Stephenson's funeral, at a minimum, should be disqualified from ever running for public office. I maintain my position that Members of Parliament who attend the funerals of known gangsters, euphemistically and sometimes conveniently called community leaders, must not grace the halls of Gordon House in the new dispensation of politics which is needed to take this country forward. Scamming is no less a scourge on our island home. It cannot be business as usual. We must create problems for them — worries in the camp.
Progress being made
I was heartened to see this headline in The Sunday Gleaner of May 18, 2017: 'Scammers scared, con artists taking flight to avoid possible extradition'. The story gave this welcome news: “According to Sergeant Kevin Watson, who heads the local Anti-Lottery Scam Task Force, many scammers have gone into hiding, while others have abandoned the illicit scheme and are now opting for a legitimate source of earnings.
“ 'Persons [scammers] are now afraid because they realise that the thing is getting quite risky. They are now worried about being caught. Lottery scammers are finally realizing just how serious we are. Not many of them, especially the top-tier guys, thought we were serious.'
The extradition of Lavrick Willocks, a 'kingpin' of local scamming, to the United States earlier this year, was a breath of fresh air — good riddance. The subsequent extradition to the US of eight of his associates should be a warning to those who believe they will reap what they did not sow. Willocks and confederates like Sanjay Williams, who got a 20-year sentence at the hands of a United States judge last December, have inflicted indescribable pain on thousands of particularly gullible elderly victims, some of whom have committed suicide. This story should serve as a wake-up call to all who believe they can eat bread from the sweat of other folks' brows.
I note the following development as we march towards justice — headline: 'Jamaican alleged scammers to be tried in US until others extradited'.
“A federal judge in North Dakota has given the go-ahead for 10 people to be tried on lottery scam charges instead of waiting until the other suspects are extradited from Jamaica.
“However, the Associated Press says a trial date has not yet been set.
“Among those to be tried is Lavrick Willocks, who authorities allege was the mastermind of the scam that bilked at least 90 mostly elderly Americans out of more than US$5.7 million.
“In January, Willocks pleaded not guilty to 66 counts of conspiracy, wire fraud, mail fraud and money laundering.
“Eight other accused facing the same charges were last month extradited from Jamaica and have since pleaded not guilty.
“Another accused, who is a US citizen, pleaded not guilty in August 2015.
“Assistant US Attorney Clare Hochhalter yesterday asked US District Judge Dan Hovland to allow the trial to proceed without waiting for the remaining defendants, saying the victims deserve justice in a case that has already dragged on for more than five years.
“He noted that 12 elderly victims have died while waiting for the matter to be heard.
“Four of the five other accused in the case are still fugitives.
“The fifth is in custody in Jamaica awaiting extradition.” ( The Gleaner, May 11, 2017)
I am also heartened that the Minister of Justice Delroy Chuck has indicated that as soon as the extradition orders come before him and all documents are in order, he will sign. Minister, you have my unqualified support and that of all well-thinking, law-abiding Jamaicans. The miscreants involved in lotto scamming must feel the full weight of the law, whether locally or internationally. These rogues must have no hiding place. The must be caught and sanctioned. Worries in the camp...worries.
The birds are tweeting again
Recall that Dr Peter Phillips was affirmed president of the People's National Party on March 26, 2017. He was sworn in as Leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition on April 2, 2016. Dr Phillips did promise he would name a shadow cabinet before the end of April 2017.
Recall also this RJR News story of March 27, 2017:
“Peter Phillips, the newly installed president of the Opposition People's National Party (PNP), has confirmed that he intends to revamp the shadow Cabinet.
“Dr Phillips will be appointed leader of the Opposition after Portia Simpson Miller retires from that office on April 2. He will then be in a position to shape the shadow Cabinet in keeping with his own priorities.
“ 'We need to have the discussions with the current members (of the shadow Cabinet), review the team, watch their operations, so in the course of a few weeks we'll be back with you, certainly before the end of April,' he told RJR News at the National Arena on Sunday afternoon, where he officially succeeded Simpson Miller as PNP president.
We are almost at the end of May, and no shadow Cabinet/council of spokespersons has been named by Phillips. Are there 'worries in the dance'? Worries in the dance was the title of a song by the late Frankie Paul, outstanding reggae singer.
Phillips, it seems, is having second thoughts about “revamping” the 31-member council of spokespersons left by ex-party leader Portia Simpson Miller.
The birds, those ubiquitous and reliable Black-Bellied Plovers, Banana Quits, and John Chewits, are chirping that at least two former ministers have said no to suggested portfolio assignments.
The birds warble that Phillips is fearful that significant reassignments will burst the stitches on already gaping wounds and raise tough questions about rewards and favouritism.
The birds sing that Phillips has pencilled in his buddy Fitz Jackson for the finance and planning portfolio, given that a date for a by-election to replace Dr Omar Davies in South St Andrew has not been announced. [Davies says he will demit office soon.] However, the birds trill that Phillips's first choice for spokesperson on the country's purse is Senator Mark Golding.
My feathered friends tweet that Dr Fenton Ferguson, Lisa Hanna, Noel Arscott, Anthony Hylton, and Natalie Neita-Headley might end up farther to the back of the Opposition benches. They quaver that Dr Morais Guy, Horace Dalley and Dr Wykeham McNeill will sit closer to their party leader in Parliament.
The Banana Quits are singing that, although Phillips has publicly said he can work with the present Opposition senators, he is having second thoughts. They chipper that all the Opposition senators except one offered their resignations at a recent meeting.
Call it when?
Incidentally, on April 24, 2017 I saw an article in The Gleaner titled 'We want a written commitment - PNP demanding principled assurance of early by-elections'. There was this interesting quote from general secretary of the People's National Party Julian Robinson: “What we are seeking is a written assurance that in the event of either a resignation [or a retirement] from the Parliament, there is no undue delay in the calling of a by-election,” Robinson disclosed.
He might want to answer this question: When Heather Robinson resigned after she declared she wasn't prepared to hug up any gunman, how long did it take for the by-election to be announced?
An observation: Dr Phillips was photographed at a recent function apparently dozing. It seems that the responsibilities of the office of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition are already proving too heavy for him.
Nuh buy puss inna bag. — Jamaican proverb
Translation: Do not purchase a pussycat in a bag.
Explanation: Examine carefully whatever you purchase or accept from someone else. In matters of the head and heart, do not be quick to accept a person as the “genuine article” without a thorough investigation.
Garfield Higgins is an educator; journalist; and advisor to the minister of education, youth and information. Send comments to the Observer or email@example.com.