Jamaican Lottery Boiler Room Investigation and Arrests
Jamaican Lottery Scam Victimizes Elderly Woman
IOWA - 02/06 - Mildred Rice daily receives many phone calls from Jamaica, and it's not because she is trying to plan a white-sand vacation in the Caribbean.
It's not unusual for Rice, who is 80 years old and has been taking care of her 102-year-old mother for the last five years, to receive as many as 30 calls a day. Her caller ID shows that most of the calls are "out of area" or from Jamaica.
"The calls have driven us about crazy," Rice said.
Calls and letters from supposed foreign lotteries in places such as Europe, China, Australia and British Columbia have flooded her home after she began talking with foreign scammers. Since then, she has sent nearly $9,000 of her life savings in hopes of getting rich to help her family.
It all started in August 2005 when a man with a Jamaican accent who called himself Detective Weldon called to tell Rice that she had won $2.5 million in a Reader's Digest sweepstakes.
"I thought, 'hot dog! What a wonderful thing,' " Rice said.
She knew she hadn't entered any contest, but the person on the phone told her because she was a magazine customer, she was automatically entered to win.
"Then, he told me I needed to send $1,800 to make sure I got the money," she said.
Later, another person identifying himself as a detective called to ask if she could help catch foreign scammers.
"I thought I was helping," Rice said.
When the "detective" called, he would tell her where to send the $300. The plan was that the scammer would go to pick up the money, and the "detective" would be there to apprehend him. Each time Rice helped catch a scammer, she was supposed to get $15,000 in return.
"I sent them money thinking they were catching the bad guys," she said.
So she sent the money through Western Union to where the man told her. Her children, who live in Washington State, had no idea that their mother was waiting for millions of dollars with excitement.
"I was going to surprise everybody," Rice said. "Then I could help all the kids."
Meanwhile, the phone kept ringing with more sweepstakes offers, and Rice began to wonder when the money she allegedly had won was going to start arriving.
"They never sent me a dime back," Rice said.
In November, she went to Washington State to visit her family and celebrate her birthday.
That's when her son, Daryl Rice, and her daughters noticed she was receiving several calls a day. She was reluctant to tell Daryl, but contacted the Ames Police Department.
"The police officer told me not to send (the frauds) any
more money because they weren't going to send any to me back ...
but (the frauds) kept promising me, and I thought it was real," Rice
Rice said the men who called her spoke to her with a gentle attitude, told her how nice and wonderful she was and that she deserved to win.
Finally, when her son visited her home in Gilbert in December, he realized what was happening.
"Mom does fine on her own, except for financial stuff," he said.
That's when Daryl installed a caller ID on the phone so she would know when not to answer. Rice's mother wouldn't allow her to change the phone number.
Also, when he looked at her two bank account statements, Daryl noticed periodic withdrawals of $399. Rice isn't certain, but she either gave her bank account information to the people who called her or someone stole her identity information to steal from her account.
Daryl and his mother worked together to get him general power of attorney. He worked with the banks to get her account numbers changed and is monitoring her accounts on-line from Washington.
There haven't been withdrawals since then, and Rice said she doesn't answer the phone if it is an out-of-area call.
"It's really been hard ... but I finally quit sending them money about a month ago," Rice said. "I am embarrassed ... especially knowing I was dumb enough to get scammed."
Lottery Scam Victim Commits Suicide
01/08 - New Jersey - The day Ann Mowle was finally going to be rewarded, she anticipated that someone would knock on her door at the Rossmoor adult community in Monroe and give her her prize money.
"She told us it was going to be a Publishers Clearing House thing," said Monroe Detective Robert Bennett, referring to scenes taped for television ads, when Publishers Clearing House delivers a fat check to an unsuspecting winner.
However, when police arrived at Mowle's home they soon realized she was the victim of an elaborate lottery scam, and warned her to ignore the calls and pleas for money.
She would not listen, said Bennett. "In her mind she knew it was wrong, but she was still committed and obsessed with this scam."
On Oct. 31 she drove to Spring Lake, and apparently jumped into the ocean. The following day two fishermen found her body adjacent to a jetty. Her death was ruled a suicide. When investigators tallied her losses to the lottery scam they pegged the figure at $248,000.
Bennett recalled visiting Mowle's home, the day she thought she was going to strike it rich. The home was immaculate, he said. There was no indication Mowle was suffering from dementia. After her death police found a tidy pile of records on her dining room table, documenting her dealings with the lottery scam.
People in the scam were so brazen, said Bennett, that they did not hang up the phone, when they called while police were at Mowle's home.
"I spoke to these Jamaican lottery guys, and they laughed at me. They said, "You can't do anything about it,"' said Bennett.
After the visit police contacted Mowle's son and daughter, and told them how their mother was the obvious victim of a scam.
"We notified them and said they should keep an eye on her finances. That was the last time we dealt with her," said Bennett.
The money was sent in the form of a money order, or in a Western Union wire transfer, according to Bennett.
The scam began in October 2006 when she received a letter in the mail informing her she had won $2.5 million. However, in order to collect she had to pay $18,000 in upfront fees. Once she paid the operators of the scam kept asking for more.
The day she expected to receive the prize at her front door, she was told the money was being delayed while it was held up at a customs' office at the airport.
According to Bennett she had money in an annuity, and pleaded with the bank to allow her to withdraw more than was allowed, telling bank officials she needed the money to pay for cancer treatment.
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International Sweepstakes and Lottery Scam
02/07 - Jamaica police investigating an international sweepstakes and lottery scam, were last night interrogating a 19-year-old St James woman to determine how she came to have $1 million in cash in her possession.
After news of the police operation spread, the question on the lips of Montegonians was where did such a young woman get so much money.
The woman, Sheneika Headley gave her address as Westgate Hills, an upscale residential district near this north coast tourist resort city. The police were also attempting to freeze an account belonging to Headley which contains another large but undisclosed sum of money.
She was charged with unlawful possession of property and hauled before the Montego Bay Resident Magistrate Court, where she was offered bail in the sum of $250,000 by Judge Winsome Henry.
Headley was among 30 persons nabbed in a massive sweep of 13 locations in Hanover and St James, staged by a combined seven police units backed by the army just before dawn Thursday.
Thursday's operation was carried out by cops from Operation Kingfish, the Fraud Squad, Financial Investigation Division, Special Anti-Crime Task Force, Mobile Reserve, Organized Crime Division, and Area One, assisted by the Jamaica Defense Force.
Nine motor vehicles, over $1 million in cash, a number of computers, cellular phones, and what Inspector Steve Brown, the communications officer for Operation Kingfish described as "interesting documents that will lead us very far in the investigations", were seized.
Explaining how the multi-million dollar sweepstakes and lottery scam worked, police said tricksters obtain the names and addresses of telemarketing customers who purchase sweepstakes tickets online. The racketeers then contact these customers by telephone and inform them that they have won the lottery. These persons would then be told to pay processing fees of up to US$5,000.
Headley and several other alleged players in the racket will be transferred to Kingston today to be further interrogated by the Fraud Squad in the case of suspected fraud.
Meanwhile, Minister of Industry, Technology, Energy and Commerce, Phillip Paulwell, who met in Montego Bay with top-ranking members of the Area One police and ICT industry officials who had expressed concern over the scam three weeks ago, congratulated the police on the operation.
"I want to congratulate the police and I pledge the industry's full support in bringing those guilty to justice," Minister Paulwell told the Observer in a telephone interview afterward.
Paulwell noted that in light of the scam, investors in the IT sector were threatening to pull their operations out of Montego Bay.
"Cabinet recently approved measures to be taken to Parliament in the form of Cyber Crime Law that will ensure that such persons, in future, will be receive severe criminal sanctions," he said.
Source: Jamaica Observer
10/06 - MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica - A man accused of murdering two men following an alleged telemarketing scam that went sour will face the court next week.
The man, Zetroy Jones, a 23-year-old unemployed of Tucker here in St James, has been charged with the murder of Jason Stephenson and Ezekiel Williams.
In the meantime, the police said two other men who were believed to be involved in the alleged fraud scheme were fatally shot by cops in separate shoot-outs last Saturday.
The two, Ricardo Gordon, 20, and Jason Henry, also 20, both of Tucker, St James, were shot and killed by the police in Montego Bay and Westmoreland, respectively. The police said a firearm was taken from the body of each following the gunfight.
According to Inspector Paul Bernard, the deputy crime chief in St James, the telecommunication scam was widespread in the city and has been of major concern to the police. He said that a number of persons, including gangsters, were involved in the illegal activity.
In the meantime, police sources said the mastermind behind the scam, Jason Stephenson, had connections with employees inside the call centres of the Montego Bay Free Zone, which collected money on behalf of persons involved in sweepstake and other games.
Stephenson, the police sources said, obtained the names and addresses of telemarketing customers who purchase sweepstake tickets online, then passes them on to his cronies.
The racketeers would then contact these customers by telephone and inform them that they had won the lottery. These persons would then be requested to pay processing fees.
However, last month things took a sour turn after Stephenson allegedly passed information to one of his accomplices who had made arrangement to collect a US$6,000 "processing fee" from a customer.
It is alleged that when the person turned up at the Western Union branch to collect the money, he was informed that another person had already done so.
Stephenson was later tortured by men who severed his head, then buried him.
$1 million fine for lotto scam artist
11/07 - Jamaica - A St. Ann man, who was involved in the Jamaican lottery sweepstakes scam which resulted in a large number of overseas residents being deceived into sending thousands of US dollars to Jamaica to claim their fictitious winnings, has been fined $1 million and also given a suspended sentence.
He is Wilford Doyle, 21, of Discovery Bay, St. Ann.
Doyle pleaded guilty on Tuesday in the Montego Bay Resident Magistrate's Court to a money laundering offence under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2007.
Doyle admitted that he was engaged in transactions involving criminal property.
Resident Magistrate Winsome Henry fined Doyle $1 million and in addition gave him a one-year-suspended sentence after he pleaded guilty to receiving US$13,100 from one of the victims. Doyle was arrested and charged following investigations carried out by the Financial Investigations Division.
The RM, in passing sentence, said "This type of white-collar crime is as equally destructive as violent crimes."
After Doyle pleaded guilty, attorney-at-law Amina Maknoon, who represented the Assets Recovery Agency, applied to RM Henry for an order for the matter to be committed to the Supreme Court for an application to be made for the forfeiture of Doyle's benefit from his criminal lifestyle. The RM granted the order.
The Assets Recovery Agency made an application yesterday in the Supreme Court for the freezing, detention and custody of Doyle's known assets, including millions of dollars held in several bank accounts and a Honda CRV, as well as an order requiring several financial institutions to disclose information about Doyle that they have in their possession.
Justice Roy Anderson granted the orders after hearing submissions from Ms. Maknoon.
The applications for the forfeiture of Doyle's benefit from his criminal lifestyle, which were granted yesterday, are the first of their kind to be made in Jamaica under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
Montego Bay Lottery Scam in Jamaica
The infamous Montego Bay 'lotto scam', which is being blamed for the western city's intolerable murder rate, is said to be the cause of the death of Ann Mowle, a 72-year-old United States grandmother, who recently committed suicide.
According to a report in last Wednesday's edition of the New Jersey-based Hardbeat News, a Caribbean diaspora newspaper, Ms. Mowle, who had, reportedly, become depressed after losing her life-savings to the Jamaican-based scam, apparently took her life after failing in her bid to recover her money.
Mowle's body was, reportedly, found at the edge of a jetty at the Worthington Avenue beach in Spring Lake, in New Jersey, two weeks ago.
According to relatives of the deceased woman, she had spent her entire life savings of US$248,000 trying to collect US$2.5million, which Jamaican scam artists had told her she had won.
After spending the last several months trying to reclaim her money, which she had sent to Jamaica via some 50 wire transfers, ranging from US$158 to US$4,750, relatives said Mowle became frustrated and depressed by her lack of success and committed suicide.
The lottery scam, which was all the rage in Montego Bay last year and had several communities awash with cash, is perpetuated by persons (diallers), who 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.
"We are aware of the scam and we have identified some of the players," Assistant Commissioner of Police Denver Frater told The Gleaner, prior to a major Kingfish operation in Montego Bay late last year, which netted 10 persons said to be major players in the scam.
During a bloody rampage in Montego Bay last year, during which at least five persons were beheaded, the police blamed the violence on the scam and said the heavy weaponry in the city's criminal gangs were procured through funding from the scam.
With investors in Montego Bay information technology sector, whose operations were being compromised by the scam, threatening to pull out of Jamaica late last year, the Government declared an intention to take measures to Parliament to enact a cyber crime Law to battle the scam.