Fraud info plea

WITH the recent spike in fraud cases at local financial institutions the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA) is urging Jamaicans who have any information on these cases to call its anti-corruption line 888-MOCA-TIP (888-662-2847) and share what they know.

Launched in early December 2022, 888-MOCA-TIP offers awards ranging from $10,000 to $1 million for information leading to successful operations and arrests.

It is a collaboration between MOCA and Crime Stop Jamaica and is dedicated to information on corruption in the public sector, organised crime, lottery scamming, and other serious crimes.

Director of communications and client service excellence at MOCA Major Basil Jarrett told the Jamaica Observer that following a lull in the tips during the FIFA World Cup/Christmas period, “We kick-started the new year with a very aggressive communications campaign. Persons may have already started to hear the ads on radio, see the social media promotion, and since the start of the year, we have started to see some very good results.

“We are very encouraged by the public response to the anti-corruption tip line. The tips that have been coming in have been received by Crime Stop and sent to us for processing. Based off the initial observation, there is very good and meaty information that we have received specifically related to scamming and corruption,” said Jarrett as he declared that information given via the tip line is held “very, very close to our chest”.

Jarrett noted that MOCA is benefiting from the guidance of Crime Stop with its 33 years of existence in handling these matters.

“Crime Stop has never had a source compromise and that’s why we feel so confident in partnering with them,” Jarrett said.

He underscored that the type of information MOCA is looking for is in reaction to high-level scamming as it seeks to get to the big players.

“But outside of scamming, we are looking at bribery of government officials, embezzlement, fraud, extortion, trading in influence — this is when people use their connections and their contacts to bypass the appropriate channels, perverting the course of justice.”

According to Jarrett, MOCA is also going after government officials interfering with the justice system, those taking goods for money or information, contracts being awarded without proper transparency, and breach of government procurement procedures.

In terms of organised organised crime, he said MOCA is interested in narcotics trafficking, weapons trafficking, arms trafficking, human trafficking, and the guns for drugs trade.

“We are really going after the ‘big fish’ [but] if someone has information that may not be at a high level, we still want the information because we can [pass it on] to one of our investigating partners who it might be more relevant to,” said Jarrett.

“So if you know about some low-level scammers operating, still send the information to us because maybe then we will push it to the Anti-Lottery Scamming Task Force or the Counter Terrorism and Organised Crime Investigations Branch, or some other agency that partner with us,” he said.

Turning to the rewards that tipsters may receive, Jarrett noted that unlike the rewards that Crime Stop would have paid out over the years relating to weapons finds and ammunition finds and so on, corruption and organised crime is a little different, with a wide range of rewards being offered depending on the nature of the tip and also the importance or the significance that the tip has for MOCA’s investigation.

“By way of example, let’s say somebody was to report a government official taking a bribe to get someone to bypass the system, it would really fall on the scale of say grand corruption, awards of contracts, and millions of dollars. A tip like that may very well be worth in the tens of thousands dollars, but certainly, a tip that involves a high-level government official, it involves multiple persons operating at a very high level, then certainly the reward offered there would be much greater,” he said.

Jarrett added that there is a working group at MOCA involving people from Crime Stop who meet on a regular basis to determine how valuable the tip was, the importance and significance and weight of the information, how useful the information was in allowing the carrying out of an investigation or possibly an arrest, and then determine the amount to be paid out as a reward.

“We do not collect any contact information from the tipster, so it is up to the tipster to call back 888-MOCA-TIP to ask for an update on their information, and that is when the nature of the reward, if there is one, would be revealed. Crime Stop has a very rigorous and robust process that they have used over the years to make payouts and that is the same mechanism that we will be relying on,” he said.

Jarrett pointed out that organised crime and corruption-related tips to the MOCA tip line aren’t necessarily actioned as quickly as a tip about the location of a weapon or ammunition.

“When MOCA gets a tip it puts the information through a very rigorous intelligence-gathering and investigative process before an operation is launched or an arrest is made. This helps to increase the likelihood that the investigation, and hopefully prosecution, can be successful and so persons should not always expect an immediate impact after they submit a tip.

“We understand that persons may want to see this immediate effect, but it is important to understand too that good prosecutions are built on good intelligence gathering and good investigative work, both of which take time, diligence, and patience,” said Jarrett.

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