KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) — Sixteen people arrested for allegedly defrauding U.S. citizens will appear in court this month as Jamaican authorities take aim at lottery scam gangs that they blame for much of the island nation’s violent crime.
Authorities said in a Friday statement the suspects are accused of defrauding victims of $50,000 between 2011 and 2015 and are scheduled to appear in court on Sept. 14 and Sept. 20.
They were arrested during a series of raids last week in western Jamaica during which authorities confiscated some $3,000 worth of Jamaican currency, computers, mobile telephones, and documents containing personal information of potential scam victims.
The government did not release the suspects’ names. It said customs and counter-terrorism and organized crime investigators assisted police during the raids.
The Jamaican scam rings generally prey on elderly people in the United States by coercing money from them after tricking victims into thinking they have won a lottery. Victims are often told they must make a tax payment to collect their winnings.
U.S. officials have said the lottery scams bilk U.S. residents out of some $300 million annually.
Jamaican authorities say clashes between rival scam gangs are behind many of the homicides and other violent crimes in Jamaica, including an October 2015 attack that killed six members of the same family. Police blamed the gang violence on a 20 percent increase in killings last year.