It is yet to be determined just how many of the more than 300 murders recorded in St James, Hanover and Westmoreland since the start of this year are linked to the lottery scam, but police intelligence indicate that a high per cent are related to the deadly illegal act.
Last week, National Security Minister Peter Bunting said the number of murders connected to the lottery scam in western Jamaica could reach 200 by the end of the year, but police sources say when the motives for all the murders are determined it could be more, much more.
The investigators note that when the guns went silent after the recent attack on a family in Logwood, Hanover, which left six dead and four in hospital, it did not take them long to establish a link between the massacre and the lottery scam, which has transformed western Jamaica into a killing field.
Information garnered in the aftermath of the killings, indicate that the violence was as a result of a feud between two rival gangs from the area which are seeking to control the money being generated from the multimillion-dollar scam.
The latest killings forced Assistant Commission Winchroy Budhoo, head of the Area One Police which covers western, Jamaica, to warn residents against embracing lottery scammers.
“I don’t want when we find them and carry them to jail you quarrel and say they are breadwinners,” said Budhoo.
“Breadwinner and they never work … breadwinners and they drive the best cars and build the biggest houses and they never work. They are in lottery scamming and they are robbing people in the United States and we are going to mash it down,” added Budhoo.
The lottery scam-related murders in Hanover, St James, Westmoreland and even St Elizabeth has left Bunting surprised if not perplexed.
“During the third week of (September), where you had that bunch of murders in Hanover, when I looked at the stats, up to that point for the month … you had more murders in Hanover than Kingston and St Andrew combined,” said Bunting.
“I tell you this so you can understand the scale of the problem that we are facing in Hanover,” Bunting told a community meeting in the parish recently.
MASSIVE JUMP IN MURDERS
He noted that St James, Westmoreland, and Hanover have all recorded massive jumps in the number of murders over last year.
“What those three have in common is they are the centre of lotto scamming in Jamaica It is not coincidence. Where you have the concentration of lottery scamming, you have murders. I have been preaching, warning people that wherever you find lottery scamming, as night follows day, murder is going to follow,” added Bunting.
The lottery scam did not start with this level of violence when it emerged in St James in 2006.
At that time, several inner-city communities, including the then epicentre Granville, suddenly became awash with cash, as scammers flaunted their ill-gotten gains with high-end vehicles, massive mansions, the latest in electronic gadgets and frequent parties with ‘top shelf’ drinks.
But even then police personnel warned residents of western Jamaica and family members of the scammers about the propensity of the lottery scam to generate lawlessness.
At a Gleaner Editor’s Forum in Montego Bay in 2006, the then top cop in western Jamaica, Assistant Commissioner Denver Frater. warned that the scammers, many of whom were high school graduates, represented a new breed of criminals, who by virtue of being more intelligent, could dwarf their predecessors in ruthlessness.
Frater’s warning was to ring true as the deadly underbelly of the scheme was exposed with gangsters getting involved.
By late 2006, a letter surfaced in Montego Bay, allegedly from the then notorious Stonecrusher gang, ordering scammers to pay over a set sum each month. The letter further warned that scammers who failed to pay would face deadly consequences.
Over the next several months, many scammers who refused to pay were killed, while others, determined not to pay, used their money to engage the services of other gangsters and even rogue cops to protect them.
It was during that time that the St James murder count surged past the 100 mark for the first time as gruesome killings, including several beheadings, became the order of the day.
As the battle became more challenging between 2008 and 2010, so was the need for high-powered guns and fast cars to beef up the protection and mobility of scammers.
St James had become an extremely dangerous place because of the regularity with which illegal guns were being fired.
Faced with increased attention from the police, assisted by international law-enforcement agencies, the scammers moved out of St James, taking their operations to the neighbouring parishes and even as far away as Manchester.
But wherever the scammers went, the violence followed, and quiet rustic communities in Hanover and Westmoreland quickly hit the headlines as murder and mayhem moved in the slipstream of the scam.
Now as efforts to wipe out the scam continues, residents in western Jamaica are expressing fear that like the mythical Hydra in ancient Geek mythology, which proved very difficult to destroy because of its many heads, the lottery scam will pose a similar challenge.