Saturday 17 August, 2019

Guest who’s in the house? Fugitives going for motels and upscale homes

Criminals coming under pressure from the security forces are seeking less vulnerable spaces to hide from the law, and have been turning their attention to a number of local motels or other private, upscale properties across the island.

The new strategy, it seems, is part of an attempt by members of the criminal underworld to stay under the radar of the security forces and away from communities where citizens, frustrated by the numbing effects of criminality, are slowly buying into the concept to tell what they know, and are quietly pointing out perpetrators to law enforcers.

An investigation by Loop News has found that while the practice of booking into motels or upscale properties has been reaping some short-term results for some of the fugitives, it has also left the gangsters exposed outside their natural ‘habitats'. And so the rented locations are ending up becoming the final places of hiding for some before they are taken down by the law, in some cases, fatally.

Evidence of this was seen in cases such as one in 2016 when one of the country’s most wanted, who was allegedly the leader of a ring which defrauded millions of dollars from America’s most vulnerable citizens, was arrested in a hotel in Kingston.

In that incident, members of the Counter-Terrorism and Organised Crime Investigation Branch (C-TOC) and the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA) carried out an operation in search for the fugitive, and managed to nab him hiding in a garden at a popular hotel

A search of his hotel room reportedly yielded US$10,000, several electronic devices, and jewelry.

Several months later, a man who was regarded as the country’s most wanted figure, Marlon ‘Duppy Film’ Perry, was shot dead by the police during an operation at a guesthouse in Port Morant, St Thomas in September 2017.

Police said the fugitive, who had been on the run for several years after he murdered two policemen in the parish, was cornered and shot dead during a high-profile operation. Three illegal guns - an AK-47 assault rifle and two pistols - were recovered by the police.

Several weeks after that incident, two men who were wanted for several serious crimes were cut down at a facility that provides cheap housing accommodation.

The police reported that they went to a section of Portmore in search of the men, who opened gunfire at the law enforcers, so they returned the fire and during a reported gun battle, the two men were shot and killed.

A .45 pistol with five rounds of ammunition and an Intratec submachine gun with three rounds of ammunition were reportedly taken from the men.

The police said the development reveals that criminals trying to avoid detection from the law were trying to find new ways to survive because of improved strategies by police to displace them from their usual stomping grounds, and were seeking out locations where they felt they could avoid the attention of the security forces.

The theory was further solidified with the capture of alleged wife killer, Omar Collymore at a guesthouse in St Elizabeth some months ago. He was reportedly plotting his way off the island after being declared wanted following the execution-style killing of his wife and a taxi driver whom she was travelling with in Red Hill, St Andrew.

Only last week, Westmoreland double murder suspect, Garnett Cunningham, 20, of Lambs River district in the parish, was tracked to a guesthouse in St Ann. Cunningham was being sought since the killing of two men and the injuring of two others in Lambs River last July.

And for those who have not ended up in places that offer cheap public living accommodation, places like apartments and abandoned houses are areas where criminals like to cool out, police said.

Law enforcers cited developments such as the one in St James where another man, Nico ‘Bowza’ Samuels, who was wanted for a triple murder, tried to evade the security forces within the parish that is under a state of emergency by hiding out in a rented upscale apartment.

His days of hiding would come to an end after he engaged a police/military team in a more than hour-long gun battle when they got wind of his location and went for him.

Two police officers, who were part of the team that went to apprehend the fugitive, were shot and injured during the shootout.

Reports are that about 1:45 p.m., members of a joint police/military team, acting on a tip-off, went to an apartment in the upscale area of Ironshore in search of the fugitive.

The police said the fugitive opened fire at the security team, but was shot dead during a gunfight.

In another case, Andre ‘Blackman’ Bryan, the reputed leader of a faction of the feared Spanish Town-based Clansman gang, was recently arrested and charged under the anti-gang legislation at an upscale home in St Andrew. The police said he and his immediate family had a rental agreement that involved payment of approximately $180,000 per month. The cops said investigation indicated that he had occupied the premises for about a year, and there were indications that a member of his family had rented other St Andrew premises for other members of the gang.

The police have advised that, despite their successes against the guesthouse and apartment practice of hardened criminals, they will continue to aggressively roll out more measures to bring such fugitives to book.

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