Shirley thought she had made a new friend. The elderly Maine resident would don a dress and jewels and wait at the back door for the charming young Jamaican man she had met over the phone.
The couple had developed a long-distance relationship after he called to say she had won $24m US and a new car in a lottery. He appeared untroubled by Shirley’s dementia and asked for a picture of her.
But he never appeared. Instead, he harassed Shirley and her family with hundreds, perhaps thousands, of phone calls in a complicated scam that eventually led her to lose more than $200,000 and her home.
“She would stand by the back door in her jewels, waiting for him to give her her new car or take her to dinner or to show her the house he was building for her,” said Shirley’s niece, Sandra Raymond.
Shirley is just one of countless Americans – most of them elderly and vulnerable – who have fallen victim to Jamaica’s lottery scam, a criminal cottage industry that is estimated to involve at least 30,000 people. Over the past 20 years, the fraud is believed to have been worth an estimated $1bn each year, overtaking the drugs trade in terms of illicit contributions to Jamaica’s economy.(the guardian)…[+]