FARGO, N.D. (AP) — A man accused of spearheading a lottery scam that bilked at least 70 mostly elderly U.S. residents out of millions of dollars has been arrested in Jamaica, authorities said Monday.
Lavrick Willocks, 27, was taken into custody Saturday after he was found hiding in a garden at a Kingston hotel, according to a news release from the Jamaica Constabulary Force, and a woman who tried to help him escape also was arrested.
Willocks faces numerous charges in U.S. federal court, including conspiracy, wire fraud and money laundering. He is one of nine defendants in custody in Jamaica who are awaiting extradition, said Clare Hochhalter, the federal prosecutor from North Dakota who's handling the case.
"We're grateful for the recent success of U.S and Jamaican law enforcement partners," Hochhalter said in a statement. "We're looking forward to bringing these and others to justice in the United States."
Jamaican lottery scams have been happening since the late 1990s, but have gone mostly unhindered until the Caribbean country passed a law in 2013 that made it easier to convict and penalize scammers. Willocks' case wound up in North Dakota after Bismarck FBI special agent Francis Gasper interviewed a Harvey woman who said she was defrauded out of $300,000 after someone called and told her she had won $19 million and a new car, and needed only to pay taxes and fees.
The process to extradite Willocks began three years ago, but he managed to elude police during a raid in March that resulted in 19 arrests, Jamaican authorities said. When he was captured Saturday, a search of his room yielded $10,000 in U.S. currency, $148,000 in Jamaican money, several electronics devices and jewelry.
Willocks is expected to appear Tuesday in a Jamaican court. It wasn't immediately clear whether he had a lawyer.
One of Willocks' co-defendants, Sanjay Williams, was convicted last year and sentenced to 20 years in prison. To bolsters its case against Williams, the government subpoenaed victims from Madison and Pine Ridge, South Dakota, as well as Minnesota, Florida, Ohio, West Virginia, Utah, South Carolina, Alabama and California.
The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last week upheld Williams' verdict and sentence, saying his rights were not violated and there was sufficient evidence to convict him.