FARGO, N.D. - Plea agreements have been reached in a federal investigation into a Jamaican lottery scam that targeted mostly elderly victims in the United States.
More than two dozen people have been indicted. Prosecutors say the defendants persuaded people to send millions of dollars to them to cover fees for lottery winnings.
Jamaican lottery schemes have been happening for years. The Jamaican and U.S. governments set up a task force in 2009 to stop the scams, but the problem has gotten worse, prosecutors say. The North Dakota case was unsealed in March 2013 with 15 indictments.
Three of the defendants signed plea agreements this week on conspiracy charges. Shannon O'Connor, James Simpson and Mikael Gillette each face a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison and a $1 million fine.
A spokesman with the federal public defender's office in North and South Dakota was not immediately available for comment.
Details from O'Connor's plea agreement show that an 83-year-old widow from North Dakota wrote at least six separate checks for nearly $157,000, all of them payable to O'Connor. The victim was told she needed to pay fees for a $19 million cash award.
Prosecutors say Gillette made numerous wire transfers of money from victims in the United States to co-conspirators in Jamaica. Simpson allegedly opened individual bank accounts, deposited and transferred funds, and lied to bank officials about the origin and intended use of the money.
One of the defendants in the case is prominent Jamaican disc jockey Deon-ville O'Hara, also known as ZJ Wah Wa. He has pleaded not guilty.
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