FARGO, N.D. (AP) — A prominent Jamaican disc jockey charged for his role in a lottery scam targeting older people in the Dakotas and elsewhere is scheduled to plead guilty.
Deon-ville O'Hara, also known as ZJ Wah Wa, is among 26 people who were indicted by a federal grand jury in North Dakota, where the investigation is centered. He is charged with three counts, including conspiracy, wire fraud, and money laundering.
A plea agreement filed last month calls for O'Hara to plead guilty to conspiracy, which carries a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison. A hearing is scheduled for Oct. 24 in Bismarck.
Steven Mottinger, O'Hara's attorney, declined to comment.
U.S. Attorney Timothy Purdon would not comment specifically, but said people should be on guard and discuss possible scams with family members.
"I cannot say this too many times or loudly enough, if you get a phone call telling you that you won a lottery you didn't enter, hang up, hang up, hang up," Purdon said. "It's a scam."
The original indictment listed among the victims an 83-year-old North Dakota woman who sent seven separate checks for a total of nearly $158,000 after she was promised $19 million in winnings. Authorities say she was talked into emptying her savings account and taking out a loan on a life insurance policy.
Other victims included a South Dakota man who sent a $14,000 cashier's check after he was promised $3.5 million and a 2012 Mercedes, and a 92-year-old man from Charleston, South Carolina, who mailed an $80,000 cashier's check to one of the defendants, court documents show.
Seven people have pleaded guilty in the case and are scheduled for sentencing in March 2015.
Jamaican lottery schemes have been happening for many years. The Jamaica and U.S. governments set up a task force in 2009 to stop the scams, but the problem has gotten worse, Purdon said.