When Tamoya James* saw a newspaper advertisement looking for persons to work overseas, she jumped at the opportunity, selling almost all her possessions to invest in her dream of a brighter future in the United States.
She did not know, however, that she was among several women who were being scammed, in her case, of more than $150,000, by a man who promised them employment in hotels in Las Vegas, Nevada.
"He is a monster! I explained my situation to him. I told him everything, and how I was struggling, and he still took my money and disappeared," said the mother of five, her eldest, a daughter aged 23, who suffers from severe epilepsy attacks.
According to James, in February, she responded to the advertisement put out by a recruiting agency, which she said was being operated by a man who gave his name as John Brown*.
Brown, she said, promised to arrange a visa interview for her at the United States embassy, secure employment at the hotel overseas, pay her airfare and one month's rent overseas. All she had to do was to pay a fee of J$150,000 and fill out an application form, which he later emailed to her.
According to James, raising the money while fending for her children was tough, but the promise of a brighter future was her catalyst. She said she sold almost all her furniture, and after about a week, delivered the money to the company's offices on Mountain View Avenue, St Andrew.
"He told me that in March, he was going to send off a set of people. But in March, he told me that I came late and that I wouldn't be able to leave until the batch that was going off in April or May," said James.
She added that up to that time, she was not worried as the company provided a receipt for her payment and regularly responded to her emails.
"I waited all that time, and I kept on calling and sending him emails. Every time that I called him, I always sent an email, but his stories always kept on changing," she said, adding that when she called in May, he told her that in two weeks, she would be provided with a date to visit the US embassy.
She called back two weeks later, and Brown told her that he would call her back. That was the last time she heard from him, James said. Further calls to the number went directly to voice mail.
Since then, James said that she has learnt that more than 30 women have met with a similar fate from the same scammer.
She said that she has not reported the matter to the police for fear of her life and her children's lives.
"I have made calls to him. I even got in touch with one of his relatives, and they told me that they cannot help me and that I should go to the police. I have not gone to them (police) because although it is $150,000, I prefer to lose it than for it to cost my life or my children's lives," said James.