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lottery scammer convicted in US

NORTH DAKOTA, United States--A Jamaican who helped to swindle middle-age and elderly people out of more than $5 million in a lottery scam has been convicted in the United States and now faces up to 40 years in prison and millions of dollars in fines, restitution and criminal forfeiture.

Sanjay Ashani Williams will know exactly what his fate is later this year. Following his conviction yesterday, sentencing and forfeiture hearings were set for August 6. Williams was found guilty of one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud or mail fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit international money laundering and 45 counts of wire fraud.

He and his accomplices deliberately targeted victims over the age of 55 in the scam. Williams had sold "lead lists" to Jamaican lottery fraud scammers, providing the scammers with the names, telephone numbers and personal information of potential victims. Williams' co-conspirators then contacted victims by telephone or mail and told them they had won a large sweepstakes prize, such as $3.5 million and a new Mercedes Benz car.

To claim the prize, the victims were told they had to send money, sometimes thousands of dollars, to pay taxes, fees, insurance and the like. After those "fees" were paid, the victims were required to send more and more money, but never received the promised prize.

The scammers frequently impersonated institutions such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Bank of America, the Internal Revenue Service and state government agencies and sometimes mailed official-looking, but fake, documents to victims. They also used official-looking email addresses, telephone numbers and sent bogus cheques to victims in order to make the scam more convincing.

Williams is the first person prosecuted and convicted, in either the United States or Jamaica, for selling lead lists to be used in the Jamaican lottery fraud. In this case alone, over 70 victims were identified, with reported losses totalling over $5 million. Individual victims lost as much as $800,000 in the scam.

Williams was one of the first Jamaican national defendants implicated in the fraud to have been tried and convicted in the United States. Prior to Williams' trial, 11 indicted defendants from Jamaica and the United States were arrested and pleaded guilty in this case and 14 indicted defendants are awaiting arrest and extradition from Jamaica. Three additional co-conspirators were charged in a separate indictment.

"It is our hope that this ground-breaking prosecution will open doors for other jurisdictions to prosecute these cases and that the lessons we've learned can be used across the country," said Acting U.S. Attorney Christopher C. Myers for the District of North Dakota.

Corporal Kevin Watson of the Major Organized Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA), Lottery Scam Task Force in Jamaica, had testified as an expert witness in Williams' six-and-a-half-day-jury trial in federal court.

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