Jamaicans scamming in US could face 20 years in prison

The United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) has warned that any Jamaican who is found to be exploiting the visa system to undertake fraudulent activities in the US, like scamming, can face up to 20 years in prison.

The USPIS said while the majority of Jamaicans who enter the country operate legally, there are a few with criminal intentions.

“The majority of Jamaicans who are going to the US, they are going in a legitimate way. They are going for tourist reasons or to shop or maybe to go to school or to work. Maybe even to migrate. But there are some who are going in to scam people or to actually be a money mule, to collect money from people that they don’t know, to bring back down to Jamaica for the scammers,” Dominick Riley, special agent postal inspector at the USPIS, said last Wednesday during Consular Conversations, a weekly talk series by the US Embassy in Jamaica.

Those who create these scams and participate in them, Riley added, can either be indicted in Jamaica, or extradited to the US for mail and wire fraud.

“Those persons who are engaged in these illegal activities, they can be charged both here in Jamaica and in the US. Our primary goal here at the US Embassy is to extradite persons back to the United States, but we do work the Jamaican law enforcement, the FID (Financial Investigations Department), MOCA (Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency) and the JCF (Jamaica Constabulary Force) to charge persons under POCA, which is the Proceeds of Crime Act. With the USPIS and the consular section, we work to stop people who are using the visa system in a nefarious way,” he said.

“Both of those charges have 20-year sentences and that time is day for day in the federal system in the US. So, if you get charged and you’re found guilty of that crime, you can serve up to 20 years and it would be at least 85 per cent of that time.”

This means that an individual found guilty could serve at least 17 years behind bars.

In addition, Riley said the USPIS is focused on lottery scamming, and enforces over 200 statutes ranging from robbery, murder, rape and child pornography to mail fraud and mail theft.

“A lot of the time, the scammers will call the elderly persons in the States and try to scam them out of money. So, they’ll tell them that they won a lottery of $4.5 million and a Mercedes and some other luxury vehicle. They will try to get them to collect money from other persons to send down to Jamaica. There a lot of different things that they try to do to get money. That’s something that we can’t have.”

He urged US citizens to look out for potential scams.

“Some of the better practices for avoiding being scammed would be to not engage in any type of illegal activity that deals with a lottery that they know they have not entered into. I would say that you want to hang up the phone if someone’s talking to you and you don’t know them or don’t answer the phone if you don’t know the number. There are a number of things you can do.”

Further, Riley underscored signs people should look out for. One of the most common ones being “high pressure sales”.

“Someone telling you that they won something and they have to pay a fee or they have to send cards or phones or any type of merchandise down to Jamaica; you want to look out for any type of thing that would be considered to be illegal.”

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