Jamaican lottery scammers face extradition to the US

PORTLAND, Maine, May 2, 2013 /PRNewswire/ — FairPoint Communications today praised Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Bill Nelson, (D-FL) for their efforts leading to the Jamaican government’s recent decision to extradite lottery scammers to the U.S.

Last week, U.S. Ambassador to Jamaica Pamela Bridgewater notified Sens. Nelson and Collins that Jamaican officials have agreed to extradite to the U.S. individuals involved in the lottery scam that is bilking hundreds of millions of dollars from senior citizens across the nation.

Sen. Collins repeated her assertions that the Jamaican government has “turned a blind eye to this fraud” for years. In a story in the Portland Press Herald, Sen. Collins was quoted as saying, “I am deeply troubled that it has taken Jamaica so long – years – before getting serious about this problem that has robbed so many elderly Americans of their savings and their dignity.”

In March, a Maine group led by FairPoint, traveled to Washington, D.C. to testify before the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging about a telephone scam originating from the Jamaican 876 area code that has been targeting seniors in Maine and across northern New England.

The committee is chaired by Sen. Nelson and Sen. Collins is the aging panel’s ranking member. Both senators have been pushing Jamaican officials to indict and then extradite scam artists operating out of Jamaica. Collins and Nelson also called on U.S. law enforcement agencies to step up efforts to combat the crime rings and assist victims.

The hearing investigated the scam that’s sweeping the country and robbing many vulnerable seniors of their life savings. The scam has victimized elderly residents throughout Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. Officials estimate that nationwide the losses exceed $300 million.

The Jamaican Parliament then 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’s hearing as the scams received widespread media attention in the U.S., which is Jamaica’s largest trade partner. 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.”

“We commend Sen. Collins and Sen. Nelson and the Senate Special Committee on Aging for their efforts and commitment to address this growing problem,” said Mike Reed, FairPoint Maine state president.

“FairPoint has been working with local, state and federal officials for more than a year to shed light on this issue. We are pleased to hear the news out of Jamaica.” Reed also explained how critical it is for governments at all levels and across international boundaries to work together to shut down these scammers.

FairPoint launched the “Beware: Scams from Area Code 876” campaign in March 2012 in response to the scams and created a website, www.bewareof876.com for tips on preventing phone scams.

“The campaign raised awareness, served as a catalyst to mobilize senior groups, captured the attention of the Jamaican government, initiated a Congressional hearing and garnered national and international media attention,” said Bill King, chief deputy of the York County Sheriff’s office, who partnered with FairPoint on the campaign. “The efforts have paid off and we are pleased to hear that the Jamaican authorities have agreed to extradite the lottery scammers to the U.S.”

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