A multi-million dollar pyramid scheme was dismantled yesterday by police in La Horquetta and nine people, including a soldier, were arrested.
Guardian Media understands that the group – the Drugs Sou Sou (DSS) – was set to pay out multiple members yesterday when the Special Operations Response Team of the TTPS was dispatched to control the crowd.
Police Commissioner Gary Griffith said the people gathered were in breach of the Public Health Ordinance.
When the officers arrived at the house on Kathleen Warner Drive, Phase One La Horquetta, with the mobile detention bus in tow, those who were gathered scattered.
SORT, led by Sgt Mark Hernandez, then executed a search warrant on the property.
Senior investigators told Guardian Media that sums of money were found hidden in the apartment’s ceiling and in a water tank outside. They also recovered large sums of new 100-dollar bills and $20 notes stacked in bales and secured with rubber bands in cardboard boxes and garbage bags. They also found what appeared to be hundreds of receipts for people who possibly contributed money to the pyramid scheme.
Up to late last night, officers of the Finance Intelligence Branch (FIB) were counting the money with the assistance of machines to ascertain the sum seized.
The counting of the money took place at the La Horquetta Police Station after the money was transported to the station under heavy police guard.
Up to press time police had counted $6 million and expected the process to go until midnight.
In a TTPS release, CoP Griffith said “when the police find that amount of money, it will be seized as evidence.”
He warned the public that when the police receive a tip-off they will find the location and seize the money.
“That would mean people would lose their hard-earned money invested in these schemes,” he said.
A Guardian Media team visited the area and saw several groups of people watching from a distance as the police carried out their operation.
Several young men from the area, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told Guardian Media that since DSS began its sou sou operations about two months ago, their lifestyles had improved.
“People helping themselves, buying vehicles, paying off their loans, we are living good now in La Horquetta,” one of them said.
Another said since the sou sou began, Phase One was now called “Little Dubai.” He claimed the young men in the community had turned away from illegal activities and had put their focus on the sou sou.
“People coming in here like nothing with real money and they safe, they good, nobody not interfering with them. Everybody looking out for each other and the warring between Phase One and Phase Two has calmed down. Why the police must disrupt all of that?” he asked.
At 7 pm, Guardian Media was told that about 200 people, all members of the DSS group, walked to the La Horquetta Police Station where the nine people and the money were taken.
The group chanted “Great is DSS” as they walked in a candle light vigil-type procession.
In a brief interview after the group got to the station, one man described the police action as victimisation. He said the action was a means of keeping poor people oppressed.
“This is the second time they have come at this guy…he is empowering the poor and black people, once they shut this down there will be a great fallout in La Horquetta. The Commissioner knows they have to give back this money, I think it is even beyond him that these instructions coming from right now,” the man, who also did not want to be identified, said.
Adding he had invested $50,000 in the DSS, the man added, “That is my legitimate funds and in this day and age, I am going to fight tooth and nail to get back my money. How is it their problem with what I decide to do with my money? That is mine!”
He said the head of the group came out of the police station around 6.30 pm and informed those gathered that his attorneys were at the station and had accounted for all the money.
—With reporting by Mark Bassant