SOCU charges another ‘romance scheme’ operative

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A man was on Tuesday last charged by the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) with three counts of Conspiracy to Commit a Felony.

Jaffon Hinds of Lot 106 Downer Street, Grove, East Bank Demerara appeared at the Georgetown Magistrates before Her Worship Zamina Ally where he pleaded not guilty to the charges and was granted $30,000 bail on each count.

Based on reports received by SOCU, Jaffon Hinds, who is a Production Administrator at Caribbean Containers Incorporated, collected the sum of $502,340 from the victim, on three separate occasions.

He was alleged to have acted as a third party for another person who befriended the victim via Facebook connection.

The victim claimed she sent the money to Jaffon Hinds using Western Union money transfer after she was instructed to do so by her Facebook ‘boyfriend’, who promised her a huge package with lots of expensive items.

To date she has never received any package and her Facebook ‘friend’ has since ceased contact with her.

The matter was investigated by SOCU and the suspect was arrested and charged. The matter was adjourned until 15th August 2022.

It was only in April 2022 that the Head of SOCU, Assistant Commissioner Fazil Karimbaksh, warned of a sharp rise in cases where suspected Nigerian nationals who are in the country illegally as well as some out of Guyana, are working with local accomplices to carry out scams and pyramid schemes on unsuspecting persons.

Karimbaksh indicated that “Package Delivery” and “Romance” scams became more prominent during the COVID-19 pandemic as scammers targeted primarily women via several social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, as well as online dating sites.

He explained that the modus operandi used by the scammers is to befriend unsuspecting women via the digital platforms using fake profiles of Caucasian men with luxury vehicles and large sums of cash.

“After communicating with the victim for some time to build trust with their new friend’ orlove interest’, the scammer promises the intended victim, some form of assistance,” he said, while noting that in most instances it is supposedly a package containing valuable gift items, such as designer clothing, jewellery, televisions, cell phones, other electronic devices and money.

The Head of SOCU explained that the victim is usually contacted by a local associate of the scammer, confirming the arrival of the package and requesting their personal contact and other information. The intended victim is subsequently contacted again and requested to deposit money to a specified local Bank Account or send via a Money Transfer Agency or the Guyana Post Office Corporation. They inform the victim that the payment is required to cover brokerage fees, customs duties, penalties and/or shipping charges for the package(s), which are supposedly found on inspection to contain high valued items. “Once the payment is made, the scammers discontinue all contact with the victim(s) who are being robbed of hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Karimbaksh stated.

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