After receiving a call from a man claiming to be her uncle, Kimberly Porter was ‘scammed’ out of $121,000 by a man posing as a customs officer from the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA), yesterday afternoon.
On Friday morning, Porter reportedly received a call from an unknown caller in Trinidad. The caller related he was her uncle travelling to Guyana and was in transit at the Piarco International Airport.
Porter said that she was initially apprehensive and unsure of the identity of the caller. However, as their conversation continued, the caller revealed information which reassured Porter that it was indeed her uncle.
The alleged uncle explained to Porter that he was travelling to Guyana but that she should not tell the rest of the family of his arrival, as he wanted to surprise them.
The caller further related that while he was laid over in Trinidad, his luggage had already arrived in Guyana. He also told her that he needed her help in clearing the luggage.
“He tell me that he bags at the airport and that I need to clear them for him,” explained Porter, “but to clear them he guh need to borrow some money from me.
“He said that I would get it back when he come in the country.”
The woman agreed to assist her uncle, thinking that it would not be a lot of money. However, when the man told her how much he would require – $121,000 – Porter was again hesitant about the situation.
She then told her uncle that she would need to consult her fiancé.
Gordon Smith, Porter’s fiancé, also received a call from the man who claimed to be his fiancée’s uncle. Despite never meeting the uncle, Smith said the caller was very familiar with him.
The caller then related that he was arriving in the country and that he needed help with clearance from customs services. When Smith heard the amount the uncle requested he too shared his fiancée’s hesitations.
The couple said that they were concerned about the amount the uncle requested but after discussing the matter they agreed to lend the caller the money.
According to the couple after agreeing, the uncle explained that they would need to contact a Customs Officer from the CJIA named Troy Thomas.
Thomas would then meet with them and provide the couple with an access code. The caller continued to say that he would have the same code in Trinidad which would give the couple clearance to uplift his luggage.
In addition to meeting the Customs Officer, the couple would have to give him the money in order to complete the transaction.
Porter and Smith made the necessary arrangements and contacted Thomas. At the time the officer claimed that he was off duty from the airport, but would still be able to meet the pair in order to conduct the exchange.
Thomas then convinced the couple to meet at a Chinese restaurant in Herstelling, East Bank Demerara (EBD).
Upon arriving at the establishment, the couple made the $121,000 transaction with Thomas who referred them to another customs officer “Shondell”.
After contacting the second customs officer the two would then be allowed to access the bags.
To the duo’s surprise, when they arrived at the CJIA, it was discovered that neither a Shondell nor Troy Thomas worked for the airport.
Adding to the couple’s confusion was the revelation that there was no luggage for Porter to collect. It dawned on the woman that she and her fiancé were part of an elaborate scam.
The distressed couple was then advised by airport personnel to report the matter to the Timehri Police Station.
At the station the pair learned that theirs was not the first case of this sort to be reported to the station.
Kaieteur News understands that in the past month 10 cases of similar claims have been reported to the police station. Smith related that there was a case whereby one man lost over $700,000 to the scam. The two have tried contacting the alleged Customs Officers but have failed. Their calls immediately went to voicemail.
“We were hoping to get married next month,” the upset Smith told this newspaper. “To have this happen to us now is really frustrating, especially since I know how hard (my fiancé) work to save up all that money. I can’t even think straight right now.”
Porter and Smith have since reported the matter to the Brickdam Police Station where investigations are ongoing.
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