MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica – The lead vehicle of a motorcade from the Jamaican lottery scam task force rushes through traffic and pulls up to a modest neighborhood of single-story homes. Armed officers jump out to stake out the perimeter and a U.S. special agent for Homeland Security investigations shows an NBC News team an extravagant (by Jamaican standards) three-story mansion jutting from the hillside.
Multiple electric lines run into the home, which has security cameras, a gilded electronic gate and elaborate balconies. We’re told the owner is awaiting trial — one of 109 Jamaicans charged so far under a cooperative effort between the U.S. and Jamaica to crack down on phone scams targeting elderly Americans in an effort known as Project JOLT.
This is Jamaica’s way of letting Americans know that it knows it has a problem and is trying to do something about it. Authorities say Jamaican scammers have become increasingly sophisticated, aggressive and successful at talking elderly Americans out of hundreds of millions of dollars. In fact, so many Americans are falling for Jamaican scams that Jamaican officials claim it’s hurt their country’s reputation.
“If we can’t get it under control and hopefully eradicate it completely then it’s going to have an impact on the legitimate businesses in Jamaica,” said Peter Bunting Jamaica’s Minister of National Security.
This Caribbean island country is known for ocean breezes, hospitality and a laid back lifestyle. But it also has a troubling side that is becoming familiar to some unlucky Americans.
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