Police close in on seasonal work con artists

By Matai'a Lanuola Tusani T - Ah Tong 06 October 2021, 10:00AM

Investigations by the police have zeroed in on con artists suspected to be behind a seasonal workers scam who robbed people of hundreds of tala last week.

Complaints from locals who paid hundreds of tala to the con artists continue to be reported to the Ministry of Police and Prisons, whose investigators have been able to identify several people they believe are at the center of the scam.

“We have identified two individuals at the moment but with more complaints referred to us by the Ministry of Commerce Industry and Labour (M.C.I.L.), we suspect there are more people involved,” said the Acting Police Commissioner, Auapaau Logoitino Filipo in an interview with Samoa Observer. 

Last week more than 20 people lodged criminal complaints with the Police after finding themselves defrauded by con artists, who claimed they work for the M.C.I.L. programme overseeing the seasonal workers scheme.

More people fell victim to the con artists this week with more complaints lodged with the Police, said the Acting Commissioner. 

The M.C.I.L. has issued a notice warning members of the public to be on the lookout for fraudsters posing as seasonal work agents purportedly employed by the office. 

Acting Chief Executive Officer for M.C.I.L. Albert Meredith in the press statement last week confirmed there are impostors gathering groups of individuals and announcing flights for the scheme. 

“For the information all flights for seasonal work for Australia and New Zealand are arranged by the Ministry,” he said in the notice.

“The Ministry is responsible for contacting those registered under the programme for screening and preparations for the programme training. 

“The Ministry also publicises scheduled flights when it's confirmed.” 

Mr. Meredith said seasonal workers registration for August has been completed and are currently undergoing screening. 

“The Ministry advises to avoid registration from those that you are not sure it is their responsibility to register people for seasonal work. 

“For your safety and security of your money being spent on fraudsters, contact our office and the seasonal workers division on 20443, 20048 and 26407.” 

Last week a victim of the scam contacted the Samoa Observer raising concern about the seasonal work con artists. 

The woman said several of them had gone to the Faleolo airport with the hope of flying out to join the scheme but found no aircraft waiting.

A rising string of complaints led to the M.C.I.L. led to the initiation of an investigation into the scam on the same day they were alerted. This led to the dispatching of officials to a property in Lotopa as part of its inquiry.

According to officials, the con artists collected hundreds of tala from the public, who assumed that the fee collectors were agents for the seasonal work employment scheme. 

A few of them made their way to Faleolo last week, thinking a charter flight would fly them overseas.

By Matai'a Lanuola Tusani T - Ah Tong 06 October 2021, 10:00AM

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