Financial Investigation Division (FID) focus on Assets after Investigation into Lottery Scam

In December 2020, 35-year-old Jamaican national, Mr. Algrando Stewart, pleaded guilty to Possession of Identity Information and breaches of Jamaica’s Law Reform Act, which falls under schedule 2 offences of the Jamaica’s Proceeds of Crime Act. Property and cash have been forfeited and the accused has been ordered to compensate J$13 million to the Crown.

On August 26th, 2016, police officers from the St. James Proactive Investigation Unit conducted a search at Mr. Stewart’s residence and discovered a cellular phone that contained lottery scamming material. Cash in the amount of US$6,230 and J$116,000 was also uncovered. Mr. Stewart was subsequently arrested and charged under the Proceeds of Crime Act and the Law Reform Act. Schedule 2 offences of the Law Reform Act signifies that the convicted party leads a criminal lifestyle; it empowers the court to make assumptions that properties owned by, or transferred to, the guilty party came about as a result of their criminal lifestyle. It also allows the court to assume that his living expenses (utilities, groceries, and so on) were financed by the proceeds of crime, unless proven otherwise by Mr. Stewart.

The FID conducted a money laundering and asset forfeiture investigation based on a report of the case from the police. During the investigation, it was found that Mr. Stewart received millions in remittances from several persons in the United States, most of whom were elderly.  It was also revealed that Mr. Stewart acquired several assets using funds which were not commensurate to his known income as a carpenter. Mr. Stewart received over J$20million in remittances and millions more via intermediaries, which he partially used to purchase two residential lots in Trelawny valued at over J$7million. Additionally, he bought three motor vehicles valuing approximately J$8million over a four-month period. and possessed bank accounts with US$9,800 and J$2.9million.

The United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) was contacted and was provided with the names of the persons who remitted funds to Mr. Stewart. However, the USPIS was unable to obtain statements from the victims as many of them were in very poor health, lost their cognitive abilities or were deceased.

Mr. Stewart consented to forfeiture regarding residential lots located in Trelawny, valued at over J$7million and forfeiture of US$6,230 and J$116,000. He was also ordered to pay J$12million to the Crown; with J$3million to be paid within a month and the balance a 24-month period. In relation to the offence of Possession of Identity Information, he was further ordered to pay a fine of J$1 million or 12 months’ imprisonment, as well as 2 years’ imprisonment hard labour, suspended for 3 years.

Acting Principal Director of the FID, Mr. Keith Darien noted, “This case is still a big win for the Division despite the fact that not every part of the estate he would have acquired by his criminal activity was forfeited by his consent. The usual court proceedings around forfeiture can be extremely time consuming and resource intensive. Essentially, his guilty plea and consent to forfeiture, saved the court system quite a bit of time. Many of these cases can drag on for years with no guarantee that every asset the convict would have earned criminally would be forfeited to the crown.”

He added, “We are thankful to the police who sought our partnership in pursuing this matter and encourage them to continue in a similar vein when they recognize that a charge laid for one offence may include a financial crime.” He went on to state that the case served as a warning to criminals that Jamaican law enforcement authorities are capable of uncovering activities related to concealing or investing the proceeds of crime. He advised citizens to resist efforts to share or benefit from the proceeds of crime.