Wed | Apr 24, 2019

Ja too soft on scammers – prof

Published:Monday | February 11, 2019 | 12:24 AM

Jamaican courts have been faulted with not hitting lottery scammers hard enough, effectively divesting justice to the United States, which has increasingly sought to extradite the 876 fraudsters and send them to prison.

While commending Chief Justice Bryan Sykes for his attempts at transforming the justice system, Anthony Clayton has criticised the country for being soft on lottery scammers.

“We haven’t seen any lottery scammers given commensurate sentences in this country. The US and other countries that have been affected tend to take it more seriously,” Clayton, a sustainable development professor at The University of the West indies, told The Gleaner last night. “In the US, these predators get commensurate sentences. Their cases are processed quickly.

“It is not just lottery scammers that the system seems to have a problem with. We still have trouble with the sentences for other crimes as well,” Clayton added.

“I see Bryan Sykes making a tremendous start on the reform that is so badly needed for so long. It is very encouraging, but we still have a far way to go in terms of improving the justice system. Lottery scamming is clearly a failure, but not the only one failing.”

scammer’s threats

The professor’s comments come in the wake of the conviction of 29-year-old Keniel Aeon Thomas, a Jamaican, who was sentenced last Friday by a United States federal judge to a six-year sentence, after which he will be deported.

Thomas, who is adjudged to have fleeced more than 30 victims, was nabbed after trying to extort 94-year-old William Webster, a former director of both the CIA and FBI, and his wife Lynda. Thomas had made multiple calls to the Websters and threatend to set their house ablaze or have a sniper kill them.

Thomas was convicted in 2018.

Psychologist Georgia Rose, who presented a lecture on lottery scamming during last week’s University of the West Indies Research Days in Jamaica, said that the fraudulent scheme induced a quasi-drug euphoria that makes the fraudsters feel invincible.

“The psychology behind it is that it is not a crime. There are others who do it because of pathological tendencies or traits. They see it as a thrill. It is a drug!” Rose told The Gleaner last night. “Once a person starts engaging in crime, their confidence increases. Every time they get away, their belief in their invincibility increases and they become more dangerous.”

The lottery scam, which originated in western Jamaica before fanning out islandwide with deadly consequences, came to the fore more than a decade ago.

jason.cross@gleanerjm.com