BEWARE: Scams from Area Code 876

Caribbean News Now! - Jamaican lottery scammer pleads guilty in US court

Published on June 14, 2013

PORTLAND, USA -- On Tuesday, a Jamaican national pleaded guilty in a US court for his role in a telemarketing lottery scheme that defrauded hundreds of senior citizens.

This guilty plea resulted from an investigation conducted by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Social Security Administration's Office of Inspector General (SSA-OIG), and the US Postal Inspection Service (USPIS).

The scammer now faces up to 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000 and is believed to be the first Jamaican national charged in the United States for this type of fraud.

FairPoint Communications, a leading telecommunications provider in northern New England, praised Senator Susan Collins for her support in exposing Jamaican lottery scammers who are robbing Americans of millions every year.

"Senator Collins has led the way in bringing light to this problem and initiating Congressional hearings on the issue," said Mike Reed, Maine state president for FairPoint. "Her actions have paved the way for this scammer being charged for bilking millions from unsuspecting senior citizens."

Reed also praised the federal authorities for their investigation leading to the arrest.

Last March, FairPoint began a public awareness campaign, Beware: Scams from Area Code 876, working with local law enforcement officials, AARP, state attorney generals and federal lawmakers to unmask the growing problem of the Jamaican lottery scam that is stealing millions every year from Americans.

Each day 30,000 calls are made from the Jamaican 876 area code attempting to defraud US citizens. An Associated Press report noted conservative estimates that put the yearly take from Jamaican scams at $300 million. Researchers say lottery and sweepstakes fraud is vastly underreported, estimating up to 92 percent of victims stay silent, so exact figures are impossible to tally. These figures are staggering, yet there has been little awareness warning vulnerable senior citizens.

Ultimately, the public awareness campaign gained national and international attention, prompting additional media coverage that initiated a Congressional hearing and moved the Jamaican government to take action.

In January, Collins was named the top Republican on the Senate Special Committee on Aging which is chaired by Sen. Bill Nelson. Subsequently, the Special Committee on Aging held a hearing to investigate a Jamaican lottery scam that's robbing many vulnerable seniors of their life savings.

Collins called on governments at all levels and across international boundaries to work together to shut down the scammers. Collins also called on US law enforcement agencies to step up efforts to combat the crime rings, assist victims and make extradition of these criminals a priority.

The publicity was noticed by many people – including the Jamaican government. Jamaican authorities have inquired about the unwanted attention because it was negatively affecting commerce, specifically tourism. Jamaica's leading newspaper – The Gleaner – published a story saying: "Jamaica's image will take a beating across the globe this week as the deadly lottery scam goes before the United States Senate."

In late March, the Jamaican Parliament passed new laws criminalizing such scams with penalties of up to 25 years in prison. Passage of the bills came roughly two weeks after the Senate Special Committee on Aging hearing on the issue.

Then, in late April, US Ambassador to Jamaica Pamela Bridgewater notified Senators Nelson and Collins that Jamaican officials have agreed to extradite to the US individuals involved in the lottery scam that is bilking hundreds of millions of dollars from senior citizens across the US.

BEWARE: Scams from Area Code 876

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