Page last updated at 08:43 GMT, Monday, 13 October 2008 09:43 UK

Lotto scam 'fuels Jamaica crime'

By Nick Davis
BBC News, Kingston

Gang graffiti in Kingston, Jamaica
More than 1,200 people have been killed in gang violence this year alone

Police in Jamaica say a lotto scam targeting US citizens is contributing to gang violence in the country.

Detectives say criminals are buying expensive high-powered weapons with the money sent by people who believe they have won a sweepstake on the island.

Despite attempts by detectives to break the scam for the past few years, it still remains active.

The operation is centred around Montego Bay, the country's second city on the north coast.

It is similar to schemes that operate in other parts of the world.

The con-artists illicitly get hold of personal information on potential victims such as their names, addresses and telephone numbers.

We know guns are being bought, but there are also robberies and killings as a result of the amount of money that is in these communities
Assistant Commissioner Les Green
Jamaica Constabulary Force

They then persuade them that they have won a lottery and need to send a fee to process their winnings.

Police here say they particularly go after retirees from the US, and in the past they have had reports of people's entire life savings being taken.

Officers say scammers are making thousands of dollars a week from wire transfers to the island, and that cash is now being used to buy expensive high-calibre weapons that are helping to fuel the violence that has seen more than 1,200 people killed since the start of the year.

Assistant Commissioner Les Green from the Jamaica Constabulary Force says the scam is linked to other crimes.

"We know guns are being bought, but there are also robberies and killings as a result of the amount of money that is in these communities," he said.

"The lotto scammers won't go themselves to collect the money. They ask other people, and sometimes that doesn't come back so they order a robbery or hit, and it increases the amount of crime as there are millions of US dollars involved in this flooding in every day."

Police are targeting people involved in the lotto scam and are seizing their assets.

However, for many people it is a long process to recover what they have lost.

Detectives say they recently had to drop a case after an American grandmother killed herself after losing nearly a quarter of a million dollars.

Jamaica struggles to fight crime
16 May 07 |  Americas
Country profile: Jamaica
06 Feb 08 |  Country profiles
Timeline: Jamaica
06 Feb 08 |  Country profiles

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