By Derrick A Scott
WASHINGTON, USA -- United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) operations chief, Vance Callender said Jamaica was way ahead of the United States authorities in addressing the problem of the “876 scam phone fraud”, which targets seniors in the United States.
Callender, who was one of seven individuals who testified on March 13, 2013, before a US Senate Special Committee on Ageing about the “876 scam phone fraud”, said he was of the view that the US should take a look at what Jamaica was doing in order to stamp out the crime, as the measures that the Jamaican government had put in place to deal with the “lottery scam” and other forms of fraud was way ahead of what the US government now had in place.
The ICE operations chief said that there has been continuous and unprecedented cooperation from the government of Jamaica concerning the scam issue. He said the government must be commended for its recent move to enact new laws to facilitate the investigation, prosecution and conviction of scammers. He said that he expects these new laws to be enforced by the end of March and that they will assist the law enforcement efforts here in the US to be more effective.
He said the crime did not originate in Jamaica and pointed out that the United States must do its part in curtailing the crime in that country.
Callender told the special committee that, in 2009, ICE had entered into an agreement with the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) to form the Jamaica Operations Link to Telemarketing Taskforce (JOLTT). The task force will focus on identifying, disrupting and dismantling organizations perpetrating Jamaican based telemarketing fraud.
Since the inception of the joint taskforce, JOLTT has initiated 450 investigations in Jamaica, resulting in 149 arrests, 10 indictments, six convictions and seized over US$1.2 million, which have been returned to victims.
Callender said that, in order to build on this success, ICE and the JOLTT continue to meet with its Jamaican partners to discuss ongoing trends and to share information. He said ICE is also assisting Jamaican law enforcement by providing training and guidance with financial crimes investigations.
In a statement submitted to the senate special committee, the government of Jamaica, said it recognised the impact that the lotto scam has on both countries and that the government has undertaken a series of measures to counter this illegal activity and to bring those responsible to justice.
The statement pointed out that the government had passed tough and new legislation that increased penalties and prison time for criminals, and was specially designed to target the lotto scam and other advance free frauds.
Under the new laws, the government will target the scam networks, their tactics, technologies as well as those who assist perpetrators in their criminal activities.
The Jamaican government has also been working closely with law enforcement agencies to vigorously and aggressively investigate and prosecute scammers. The statement pointed out that the government of Jamaica was fully committed to working with the US authorities in the fight to prevent lotto scams and other such advance free frauds which negatively affected citizens of both countries.
VP of global security at Western Union, Phil Hopkins, and deputy chief inspector at the US Postal Service, Sean Tiller, spoke of anti fraud measures put in place by their organizations to help mitigate some of the effects of these scams.
Over the last two weeks, Jamaica's Justice Minister Senator Mark Golding, National Security Minister Peter Bunting as well as the Commissioner of Police Owen Ellington and the Director of Public Prosecution Paula Llewellyn, have travelled to the United States to hold talks with US officials in New York and Washington concerning the issue. They have also met with members of the Jamaican Diaspora in both cities to give an update as to the steps Jamaica was taking to halt the crime.