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'It was a horrible, horrible crime that I committed,' Jamaican lottery scammer repents

Oct 5, 2018, 9:25 am

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Scam AlertScam Alert: 'It was a horrible, horrible crime that I committed,' Jamaican lottery scammer repentsRating:

Charles Bennett had already lost his home and moved into a trailer to pay the scammers who had taken over his life. Soon he was hiding there in the dark, told in a late-night phone call that he was about to be arrested over unpaid bills.

The 85-year-old Massachusetts man would be stopped from selling the trailer by a social services investigation, but he lost all control over his finances. Even then, he starved himself so he could hand over his food allowance to the scammers. He remained convinced he'd won millions in prize money and would soon live lavishly, if only he first paid a few fees.

Bennett fell victim to a "Jamaican lottery scam," a scheme so pervasive that it appears in law enforcement task force acronyms and in reggae songs. Callers promise winnings in exchange for the payment of taxes or fees that keep rising, with the scammers sometimes threatening violence when their marks express reluctance to pay.

Bennett's scammers were eventually caught and prosecuted in federal court in Alexandria, Va., but that took many years. By the time the final defendant, Tessicar Jumpp, 34, was extradited from Jamaica and sentenced to six years in prison this summer, Bennett had been dead for nearly two years. Jumpp was the last of seven family members convicted of together scamming elderly people out of about $750,000.

The case was prosecuted in Northern Virginia because at least one of the 10 confirmed victims lived there, authorities said.

Law enforcement officials say the scam is among the most lucrative of various phone-based schemes targeting vulnerable elderly people, and one that for a long time has gone under-prosecuted. The lead perpetrators are overseas, the money is usually sent in small chunks, and the victims may be uncooperative or confused, making it difficult and time-consuming to build cases. Gene Rossi, a former federal prosecutor who worked on the investigation in Alexandria, said it was a struggle to get the necessary resources.

"There are probably hundreds of Ms. Jumpps out there in Jamaica because it's so easy," he said. "I think the Justice Department should take it up a notch and focus more on this than on prosecuting people who are selling marijuana."

When prosecutor Zachary Terwilliger took charge of the office of the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, the Jamaican lottery investigation was ending. But he said the Justice Department is committed to fighting the problem — in part spurred by legislation he helped craft while working on the staff of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The legislation mandated elder justice coordinators within the Justice Department and stiffened penalties.

"The devastation that this economic harm causes people later in life — the stress, the anxiety. . . . It can be catastrophic," Terwilliger said. It's "absolutely one of our priorities."

He said that with an aging mother-in-law and 7-year-old child, he is part of a "sandwich generation" helping to take care of both.

For older people who fear becoming a burden on their children, these scams offer the promise of a magical escape — the money to pay for every need, and a new friend to call at any moment.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Clare Hochhalter, whose office in North Dakota has prosecuted more Jamaican lottery scammers than any other jurisdiction, hopes the new focus is effective.

"People in my own office didn't care, because everybody gets tricked," he said. That attitude, he argued, undervalues not just the financial devastation caused by the scams but also the potential risks.

"Many of the victims will remain victims for years and are subject to control of these anonymous professionals," Hochhalter said.

The prosecutor said he worries about the damage a violent group or even enemy state could inflict with that kind of control over elderly Americans. "We have victims who have received anonymous packages, are instructed not to open them and deliver them — and they do."

In its investigation of the Jamaican lottery case, his office has created a template he hopes others will follow, after tracing one victim to at least 100 others through a network of 27 scammers. Subsequent investigations have focused on the sellers of "lead lists" that identify lucrative targets — elderly people who live alone and have responded to lottery solicitations.

Bennett had lost his son years earlier in a car accident; when various scammers began calling, he was taking care of his wife, who had Alzheimer's. The calls continued after she died, telling him that his wife had had an insurance policy on their son and that he could access it for a fee.

His niece Sandra Hudson said the isolation crippled him. He fell for one scam after another; he lost $50,000 to the group charged in Alexandria, but that was only a piece of the life savings he lost.

"He would admit it was a scam, and then it was like it was forgotten," Hudson said. When her son, a federal agent, tried to explain to him why a purported government document was fake, Bennett cut him out of his life.

"They've lost their life savings and they can't accept that they lost their life savings," Frank Gasper, the lead FBI agent on the North Dakota cases said of scamming victims. "You can't go back to work if you're in your 80s. If they accept the fact that they lost the money, then they've lost all hope."

Gasper fielded many elder fraud complaints before he got the one that launched the North Dakota Jamaican lottery investigation: a woman in a small rural town who lost her life savings of over $300,000. Because of the amount of money involved, and because it went by check to a woman in Florida, he knew he could make a case. Often, money is funneled through other victims, which makes it harder to trace.

It is also difficult to extradite people to the United States for prosecution. The process requires not just an affidavit from a law enforcement agent but signed statements from witnesses or co-conspirators.

The perception in Jamaica is that "it's worth it, it's easy to get away with," Assistant U.S. Attorney Samantha Bateman said at the August sentencing of Jumpp, the only one of Bennett's scammers extradited from Jamaica. (Another was arrested at the airport traveling to the United States; he is serving a 10-year sentence. The others lived in the United States.)

Trying to get any money back is even harder, although Gasper has flown to Jamaica with victims to seize assets through civil court proceedings there. "They spend the money," he said. "They have these big parties and they'll buy champagne and then they'll wash a car with champagne. They'll have a contest, whoever burns the most amount money gets to play the next song. That's where the money goes."

Jumpp was not so profligate. Her attorney said she used the money only to avoid eviction herself, and quit the scam out of guilt long before her arrest.

"I couldn't do it anymore because of how it felt inside," Jumpp said at her sentencing. "I made a terrible and selfish decision. What I did has eaten against me for four years. I had sleepless nights. It was a horrible, horrible crime that I committed."

She said when she heard in court that one victim who lost $300,000 was a cancer survivor, she thought of her own mother's cancer diagnosis.

"There is such a thing as karma," she said. "What you sow is what you reap."

Washington Post

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14 comments. Last comment 2 years ago by Tucker Black.
Page 1 of 1
Avatar
Simpsonville
United States
Member #163184
January 22, 2015
2327 Posts
Offline

The last sentence about sums it up.  They'll get theirs even if not in a courtroom.

 

Not a good ending to the week with a not feel good story.

    Avatar
    Chasing $ Millions.
    White Shores- California
    United States
    Member #136473
    December 12, 2012
    6398 Posts
    Offline

    The opening paragraph is devastating and sad on so many levels. Hopefully more of these stories can be preached in retirement homes & children can educate their parents, who live alone to be extremely careful with handing out their money to total strangers. 

    • Got a phone call from some bogus outfit yesterday telling me that " my social security #" had been compromised & that would affect my standing with the agency. So l called this place, first giveaway: The person taking my call had an Indian accent.Second:  l asked this guy " Sir, l received a call from this number telling me so & so- could you please tell me what my SS# is, so l can verify that what you saying is true..... The phone call ended immediately!

     * Voice of Reason *   

     

    People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it- George Bernard Shaw.

      music*'s avatar - DiscoBallGlowing
      USN United States Navy
      Fresno, California
      United States
      Member #157851
      August 2, 2014
      3959 Posts
      Offline

      Caller I.D. or Caller Identification is a life saver for me. I know who is calling. 

       I believe America can support giving Caller I.D. to the elderly. At least State by State. 

       We know where the victims are. 

       "We are all in this together!" 

        Avatar
        Simpsonville
        United States
        Member #163184
        January 22, 2015
        2327 Posts
        Offline

        The opening paragraph is devastating and sad on so many levels. Hopefully more of these stories can be preached in retirement homes & children can educate their parents, who live alone to be extremely careful with handing out their money to total strangers. 

        • Got a phone call from some bogus outfit yesterday telling me that " my social security #" had been compromised & that would affect my standing with the agency. So l called this place, first giveaway: The person taking my call had an Indian accent.Second:  l asked this guy " Sir, l received a call from this number telling me so & so- could you please tell me what my SS# is, so l can verify that what you saying is true..... The phone call ended immediately!

        Sounds like me with the fake IRS scam.  I asked for my SS# to verify the Indian sounding guy was legit.  I knew it wasn't, like messing with them.  He said 'Eff you and get off my effing phone'.  You called me jerk. 

         

        Still waiting for the credit card one.  They ask Visa or Mastercard, then will start with the respective first digit.  Everyone knows which card starts with a four or five, then they want the rest.  Will tell them let me go get the card and just lay the receiver down for 1/2 hour.

          Avatar
          Simpsonville
          United States
          Member #163184
          January 22, 2015
          2327 Posts
          Offline

          Caller I.D. or Caller Identification is a life saver for me. I know who is calling. 

           I believe America can support giving Caller I.D. to the elderly. At least State by State. 

           We know where the victims are. 

          Nomororobo or whatever it is called has been great.  Unfortunately on the cell phone they charge $1.99/month for this free service on a landline so not paying them a penny more.  At least the caller ID says suspected spam call.  With the landline I get one long ring and that's it.

          I saw a news story about how the phone companies can stop all this.  Unfortunately  the initiative isn't taken unless the Government mandates it.  So much for taking care of the consumer, we just want your money.

            Avatar
            Chasing $ Millions.
            White Shores- California
            United States
            Member #136473
            December 12, 2012
            6398 Posts
            Offline

            Sounds like me with the fake IRS scam.  I asked for my SS# to verify the Indian sounding guy was legit.  I knew it wasn't, like messing with them.  He said 'Eff you and get off my effing phone'.  You called me jerk. 

             

            Still waiting for the credit card one.  They ask Visa or Mastercard, then will start with the respective first digit.  Everyone knows which card starts with a four or five, then they want the rest.  Will tell them let me go get the card and just lay the receiver down for 1/2 hour.

            l was having " fun" with this guy BD, thing is l don't always answer my cell phone, so this message was on vm. I called backed as a " concerned citizen" and reeled this guy in. I originally asked " How did you get my number, what is my name?" That's when l told him to " forget" the first two questions and JUST tell me my SS# instead..Big Smile

             * Voice of Reason *   

             

            People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it- George Bernard Shaw.

              grwurston's avatar - Lottery-012.jpg
              Win Today.
              In front of my computer.
              United States
              Member #90247
              April 24, 2010
              9716 Posts
              Online

              Nomororobo or whatever it is called has been great.  Unfortunately on the cell phone they charge $1.99/month for this free service on a landline so not paying them a penny more.  At least the caller ID says suspected spam call.  With the landline I get one long ring and that's it.

              I saw a news story about how the phone companies can stop all this.  Unfortunately  the initiative isn't taken unless the Government mandates it.  So much for taking care of the consumer, we just want your money.

              I Agree!

              Nomorobo is awesome!!! Like you said, one ring and that's it. It doesn't always show the number of the spam caller on my caller ID, but that's not a problem. I can just access my comcast acct if I want to see what it was. Bottom line, no annoying calls, no one clogging up my answering machine with messages trying to sell me something.

              "You can observe a lot just by watching." Yogi Berra, Hall of Fame baseball player.

              The numbers will tell you what numbers to play. Pay attention to the numbers.

                Avatar
                Simpsonville
                United States
                Member #163184
                January 22, 2015
                2327 Posts
                Offline

                l was having " fun" with this guy BD, thing is l don't always answer my cell phone, so this message was on vm. I called backed as a " concerned citizen" and reeled this guy in. I originally asked " How did you get my number, what is my name?" That's when l told him to " forget" the first two questions and JUST tell me my SS# instead..Big Smile

                Hurray!  WTG noise-gate.

                  grwurston's avatar - Lottery-012.jpg
                  Win Today.
                  In front of my computer.
                  United States
                  Member #90247
                  April 24, 2010
                  9716 Posts
                  Online

                  It's not just the Jamaicans. There are plenty of places right here in the U.S. that send out sweepstakes mailings promising you won anything from $10 thousand to $10 million. All you have to do to enter is send a small "donation," usually 5,10,15,20,25 dollars to help the "charity" they are supposedly representing. Which often sounds real close to a legitimate charity. Then the next letter from them, the donation goes up, then the next letter up again. And if you stop, then you'll get a letter saying, "we haven't heard from you in awhile, why haven't you responded lately? Please help with another donation and here's a new entry number reserved just for you."

                  I can tell you this, send in a couple and before you know it you will be getting 10 to 15 a week of these "sweepstakes" entries. If you have elderly relatives with a bunch of these in their house, you better talk to them about it. They usually come from the middle of the country, Nebraska, and Kansas in particular. So be on the lookout...

                  "You can observe a lot just by watching." Yogi Berra, Hall of Fame baseball player.

                  The numbers will tell you what numbers to play. Pay attention to the numbers.

                    Groppo's avatar - cat anm.gif

                    United States
                    Member #162626
                    January 7, 2015
                    780 Posts
                    Offline

                    .

                    The whole scam thing sickens me (especially toward the elderly), like you don't know.  (Or maybe you do know.)
                    I suspect something in OUR own system has gone (or at least allowed to go) awry.

                    I've seen a lot of mention on Jamaica between the article and comments.
                    But, it's not just Jmca., it's anyone who, living outside of the USA wants to take advantage of USA's freedom, like so many have. Soon, I'm afraid there'll be no more USA.
                    The Declaration of Independence hasn't changed (but I believe people have, for the worse).

                    It's no wonder, then, why these scams continue. I have trouble trusting my next door neighbor,
                    as such, I don't trust ANYONE from outside the USA.

                    Pick-pockets are too common. My folks were in Spain one year, and were almost hit by a team of pps. Fortunately, they weren't hit, but they reported it to the Police and my folks were told:
                    "It happens often.  Thank you for visiting. Bye bye".  That was the response from he Police there. So, if you're thinking of going, just be careful.  Stick your wallet inside a zippered pocket, inside your button-up vest.

                    Do the people living in these countries of origin of the scams, have such a difficult time living, that they have to reach outside of their countries to rip people off?
                    (yeah, I guess they do).

                    I've been to Europe, once, decades ago, where most of my relatives live, and I've no desire to go back. I've gladly made The USA my 'prison', for life!

                    Good luck to all, on tonight's game!

                    Mr. Groppo

                    • Don't chase the numbers you play.
                    • Play only numbers you've already played, plus however many random picks.
                    • But, ALWAYS the regular numbers you play.  This will make you a winner, not a chaser.
                               (so far, though, I've yet to win any significant lotto prize)
                    • Oh, but always know where your tickets are, as well as your ticket's deadline.
                      rcbbuckeye's avatar - Lottery-062.jpg
                      Texas
                      United States
                      Member #55887
                      October 23, 2007
                      10576 Posts
                      Offline

                      .

                      The whole scam thing sickens me (especially toward the elderly), like you don't know.  (Or maybe you do know.)
                      I suspect something in OUR own system has gone (or at least allowed to go) awry.

                      I've seen a lot of mention on Jamaica between the article and comments.
                      But, it's not just Jmca., it's anyone who, living outside of the USA wants to take advantage of USA's freedom, like so many have. Soon, I'm afraid there'll be no more USA.
                      The Declaration of Independence hasn't changed (but I believe people have, for the worse).

                      It's no wonder, then, why these scams continue. I have trouble trusting my next door neighbor,
                      as such, I don't trust ANYONE from outside the USA.

                      Pick-pockets are too common. My folks were in Spain one year, and were almost hit by a team of pps. Fortunately, they weren't hit, but they reported it to the Police and my folks were told:
                      "It happens often.  Thank you for visiting. Bye bye".  That was the response from he Police there. So, if you're thinking of going, just be careful.  Stick your wallet inside a zippered pocket, inside your button-up vest.

                      Do the people living in these countries of origin of the scams, have such a difficult time living, that they have to reach outside of their countries to rip people off?
                      (yeah, I guess they do).

                      I've been to Europe, once, decades ago, where most of my relatives live, and I've no desire to go back. I've gladly made The USA my 'prison', for life!

                      Good luck to all, on tonight's game!

                      Mr. Groppo

                      My daughter went to college in Madrid for her last semester a few years ago and got her wallet stolen out of her purse on a train. Even though we warned her, they were so good at it she never knew it until later.

                      CAN'T WIN IF YOU'RE NOT IN

                      A DOLLAR AND A DREAM (OR $2)

                        picktowin's avatar - Lottery-022.jpg
                        wisconsin
                        United States
                        Member #49377
                        January 28, 2007
                        3910 Posts
                        Offline

                        Is that person a joke or what !

                        Person sure didn't feel bad when was doing it.

                        They need to get life in prison.

                        The elderly as I am one of them should know better than to get swindled by anyone.

                        Family or stranger .

                          Avatar
                          Simpsonville
                          United States
                          Member #163184
                          January 22, 2015
                          2327 Posts
                          Offline

                          I Agree!  The only regret she has is that she got caught.  Is this the same one who scammed the US Government on student loans and used her job on a major airline to go to Jamaica.

                          Yes, harsh long prison term.  Only wish I knew who scammed by late Dad.

                            Tucker Black's avatar - Kleber Vieira.jpg
                            Reno, NV
                            United States
                            Member #173299
                            February 25, 2016
                            334 Posts
                            Offline

                            After doing some time in prison, these worthless piles of human garbage known as scammers need to be on a work farm/poultry processing/etc with an ankle monitoring device where 100% of their earnings are used to pay restitution to their victims. They can keep just enough of the food they grow to stay alive.