Suspect in Jamaican lottery scam pleads not guilty in US

AP News
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Posted: Jan 26, 2017 5:58 PM
Suspect in Jamaican lottery scam pleads not guilty in US

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A Jamaican man accused of being the kingpin of a multimillion-dollar lottery scam that victimized dozens of people across the U.S. pleaded not guilty Thursday.

Lavrick Willocks entered his pleas to charges of conspiracy, wire fraud, mail fraud and money laundering in U.S. District Court in North Dakota. He and defense attorney John Goff also waived his right to a detention hearing, and U.S. Magistrate Judge Charles Miller said Willocks would remain jailed pending trial, scheduled for late March.

Authorities allege the sophisticated schemes that Willocks masterminded bilked more than 70 mostly elderly Americans out of more than $5.6 million. He was initially charged in October 2012, but he evaded police until being arrested in a hotel in the Jamaican city of Kingston in November of last year. Authorities said they found more than $10,000 in U.S. cash in his room, along with electronics and jewelry.

Willocks during his initial court appearance last week told Miller he had barely $15,000 and no assets. Miller ordered him to fill out a financial affidavit and later ruled that he qualified for a court-appointed attorney.

The lottery scam case began in North Dakota in 2011 when prosecutors say a Harvey woman was defrauded out of $300,000 after receiving a call from a man who told her she had won $19 million and a new car, and needed only to pay taxes and fees.

Fourteen other people face charges in the case. One is in the court system, 10 are in custody in Kingston awaiting extradition and three remain fugitives, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Clare Hochhalter.

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