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Inmate runs job racket from prison

Dozens of Cayman-bound victims fleeced of cash

Posted  84 Views updated 6 months ago

A Jamaican prisoner is believed to be the mastermind of a recently discovered overseas job scam in which about 30 persons from several parishes who were promised customer-service jobs in The Cayman Islands were scammed of nearly $1 million.

The victims had reportedly paid over $30,000 each as a security deposit for the programme, while some had handed over money they had collected from persons they were instructed to recruit for the company’s unemployment insurance programme.

According to a local police source, the prisoner placed, over time, advertisements in the media for various schemes, including jobs, car loans, houses, among other things, that would appeal to low-income and unemployed individuals.

Under the insurance programme, registered members were required to contribute five per cent of their salary monthly, and in the event of job loss, would be paid for a year or be otherwise employed.

The company, which operated under the name the Employees Corporation of Jamaica at 85 Hagley Park Road in Kingston, had circulated a flyer on social media seeking 30 persons to work in Cayman on work exchange. Work permits, plane tickets, and accommodation were promised.

Some victims who had been preparing to leave Jamaica on Saturday had quit their jobs and had taken out loans for the trip. Some even sold their furniture.

However, several victims who expected refunds after the trip was cancelled had their world turned upside down after they learnt on Sunday, via an advisory on Facebook from the Cayman Islands’ labour ministry, that neither the ministry nor the Workforce Opportunities and Residency Cayman were affiliated with Employees Corporation of Jamaica.

Many turned up at the Fraud Squad office in downtown Kingston on Monday to report the matter after the branch director, who had promised to refund the money, informed them that she was going to the station.

Roxanne Francis, who had resigned, said they were told that the company was fairly new but that it had branches in 21 different countries.

“We were informed that we would have worked for the company for two weeks with pay before we migrate to the Cayman Islands on March 19, but we were not paid that salary, and we had to be going back and forth with the person as the information was not communicated effectively among everyone,” she said.

According to Francis, the company’s production manager, who had conducted the training, had assured them that the job was legitimate.

But she said the branch manager disclosed in a WhatsApp group Sunday night that she did not know who the owner was and had never met him.

“She said she has been working with him since January 22, but he has never paid her, and that it’s her babyfather who provides her with a source of income. I am not certain as to how she pays the workers who are enrolled,” Francis added.

Another victim who had quit but whose employer had not accepted his resignation said he was very sceptical of the job opportunity from the outset but brushed aside those reservations because his relative had helped him land the post and gave assurances that it was genuine.

Roshane, who requested that his surname be withheld, said he had seen the flyer floating around but had not given it a thought until his niece told him to check it out.

He admitted to having misgivings because of several red flags but pushed ahead.

“I believed in the business idea, especially after seeing how many people lost their jobs in the pandemic,” he said.

However, he said for March, the company told them that it had a promotion where persons who registered were required to pay $500 per week and that each of them was mandated to recruit at least 50 persons to qualify for the Cayman programme.

But the call centre worker said after encountering several red flags, including legal documents filled with grammatical errors, February flight delays, assurances of no need for COVID-19 vaccination or testing for travel, changed his mind after the trip was cancelled on Saturday. He demanded back his monety but was told it was too late.

Roshane said he spent about $50,000, including funds for a police record, but was more worried about other victims who had exhausted their income and were deep in debt.

“A lot of persons resigned from their jobs; some sold down to their furniture. I know one girl who gave up her house and went to stay with her mother as she was saying her contract was for three years,” he said.

“... A lot of people went out of their way, and what really hurt is that we are not being treated as victims.”

According to Roshane, the police seem to be treating the branch manager as a victim, claiming naivety. However, he has cause for concern because the executive reportedly repeatedly assured them that the company had secured the work permits.

Meanwhile, attorney-at-law Steven Jackson, who has been retained by the branch manager, said his client has not been detained by the police and that she went in to make a statement.

“My client is not involved in any fraudulent activity, and I have not gotten any instruction about the money, but we are ready to show that we are not involved,” he said.

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