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Double dilemma as family rocked by property fraud

Too embarrassed to disclose the scale of his losses, a young man standing at the cordoned security checkpoint along the Bernard Lodge main road Thursday morning rued the decision of his mother and girlfriend to purchase land from an unscrupulous man.

He claimed that his girlfriend went behind his back and was calling him in anxiety as demolition crews tore down illegally erected homes, at various phases of construction, at an informal settlement on the outskirts of Clifton in St Catherine.

Communicating by phone with his mother, who was at the demolition site, and pleading with soldiers and police to allow him passage to be with her during the ordeal, the man who appeared to be in his 20s sounded off on the exercise.

“Mi mother buy it long time, ‘bout a year me would say, and mi girlfriend buy hers weh day,” he said.

He was torn by the idea that his girlfriend has lost everything.

The man said that he initially went with his girlfriend to buy the land but decided against it.

“We come with the money and turn back. A one friend, she and her go behind me back and she tell me say she buy land and mi no say a word to her. Mi mother tell her say nuh follow me because me nuh have nothing … . A she end up a feel it now”, he said.

His account mirrored the narrative of others who, yielding to naivety, cunning, or desperation, turned over their life earnings to fraudsters who purported to sell property. Prime Minister Andrew Holness said Wednesday that the activity was spearheaded by gangsters.

The young man with whom The Gleaner spoke was concerned that, though his mother had not started construction, a lump sum was paid to someone unknown to him to secure the lot.

“Mi mother just a build up her house, she nuh live there and this just come in now. To how the process did set, mi tell mi mother say me nuh trust this, mi nuh like do things so, because mi aunty buy land already and a never so. If a raw cash mi a spend and get me papers, then mi will do it”, he said.

“Mi just watch dem make dem move because a nuh my money a spend; it nah hurt me, it a hurt dem,” the man told The Gleaner.

The foundation of his mom’s home was completed and “out of the ground” while his girlfriend’s plot was fenced and work had commenced.

He also took the Government to task, saying that the administration could have pursued alternative means of redress.

The police said 30 houses were set for demolition but only about a third of that total were flattened.

Dennis Brooks, senior communication strategist for the Jamaica Constabulary Force, told The Gleaner that the operation was conducted by SCJ Holdings.

“We as law enforcement are merely here based on our assessment of the space, just to provide the security necessary for the workmen to do their operation,” Brooks said.

Brooks said there are several properties on the land that have been acquired by persons believed to be criminal elements and who have in turn sold the lands to unsuspecting persons.

“The necessary orders were given by the Government of Jamaica to cease and desist, but the construction has continued and it has now reached the point of demolition,” the JCF communication point man said.

The lands, which fall within the Government’s Greater Bernard Lodge Development Plan, will be formalised and owners given titles, but criminals have captured a section designated for agriculture, Prime Minister Andrew Holness told lawmakers Wednesday.

“We’re not an evil Government. We are not an unthinking and uncaring Government. We care, so after we have demolished the incomplete structures, then we will engage a process to deal with the structures that are complete and occupied,” Holness said in the House of Representatives.