After making what he described as a calculated business decision to sell the only cow he owned for the $60,000 downpayment to an overseas employment agency in Christiana, he thought that he would be off to Canada by tomorrow for a chance at a better life for his family, including a nine-month-old son.
However, Blair came to the realisation yesterday that he was scammed of his hard-earned cash, further dwindling his already limited resources.
“A one cow mi have inna mi name, and mi sell the one cow just fi better,” he told the Observer by phone while outside the Christiana Police Station where he and others went to make reports.
Blair said that he was among more than 100 individuals from central Jamaica, and as far away as Kingston and Montego Bay, who fell victim to the alleged scam.
He said that he heard about the agency through a friend, made contact, and travelled to the office more than once over the period of about a month to complete the application process. He said he submitted the relevant documents, which included a police record, passport-sized photographs and copies of his tax registration number, National Insurance Scheme number, and passport.
When the details were finalised with the overseas employment agency, the person who assisted him throughout, a woman whose name is being withheld, instructed him that on February 28 he would be meeting a bus beside a popular bank in Christiana at 3:00 am with other applicants, that would take them to Kingston in preparation to leave the island on March 2.
Blair said that he arrived there on Wednesday morning and saw more people than he had expected.
“It look like a airport,” he said, referring to the number of individuals with luggage and relatives with them ready to bid them farewell.
He said, however, that the woman did not show up, even while they were still at the location at sunrise.
Blair said efforts to reach her by phone proved futile and they later learnt that the office, which was at George Kirby Plaza in the town, was no longer in operation.
He expressed disbelief that he was actually lured into a scam.
“The lady speak to we so nice. You wouldn't know say she fake,” he said.
According to Blair, the agency said it was helping the applicants to get “skill work” in Canada and the United States, and that they would pay half of the cost here and the other half after they arrived at their respective jobs.
He said that for him and others going to Canada, the full cost that they were expected to pay was $120,000, hence the reason he paid $60,000 up front.
For applicants who were scheduled to go to the United States, he said the cost was a bit more.
Blair, who is from Lowe River in Trelawny, said that he currently earns a living as a farmer and works in the construction industry. He said he had signed up to do work in construction, the electrical field, or as a handyman in Canada, for at least a year.
He mentioned that a woman in “plain clothes” at the Christiana Police Station took the report, but noted that some police officers “tek it for a joke”, saying that they should know better because similar incidents were in the news frequently.
While the incident elicited a range of emotions for victims, including embarrassment, the Trelawny resident said he is still thanking God for the outcome.
“Everybody want opportunity but you could reach and is human trafficking,” he said.
Head of the Manchester Police Division, Superintendent Wayne Cameron, confirmed that reports were made and stated that the matter was under investigation.