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Press Release

Jamaican Lottery Fraud Defendant Found Guilty of Conspiracy to Commit Fraud and Other Charges

For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs

Sanjay Ashani Williams, of Montego Bay, Jamaica, was found guilty on charges 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 (counts two through 44), after a six-and-a-half-day-jury trial in federal court, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Christopher C. Myers for the District of North Dakota.

Williams 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 falsely told the victims they had won a large sweepstakes prize, such as $3.5 million and a new Mercedes Benz automobile.  Callers repeatedly instructed victims that in order to claim the prize, the victims had to send money, sometimes thousands of dollars, to the scammers to pay non-existent taxes, fees, insurance and the like.  Williams and other scammers deliberately targeted victims over the age of 55.   After the “fees” were paid, the victims were required to send more and more money, however, the prize was fake and the victims did not receive the promised prize. 

The scammers frequently impersonated trusted institutions such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Bank of America, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and state government agencies.  They sometimes mailed official-looking, but fake, documents on letterhead to victims.  Scammers also used official-looking email addresses, telephone numbers and sent bogus checks 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 totaling over $5 million.  Individual victims lost as much as $800,000 to the scam.  Williams was one of the first Jamaican national defendants implicated in the Jamaican lottery 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.     

“This case should send the message to fraudsters around the world, if you victimize North Dakota citizens, we can and will find you and bring you to justice,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Myers said.  “It is our hope that this groundbreaking prosecution will open doors for other jurisdictions to prosecute these cases and that the lessons we’ve learned can be used across the country.”

Williams faces up to 40 years in prison and millions of dollars in fines, restitution and criminal forfeiture.  The honorable Daniel L. Hovland has set a sentencing hearing and forfeiture hearings for Williams on Aug. 6, 2015, in U.S. District Court in Bismarck, North Dakota.

The case was investigated by the North Dakota office of the FBI and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) in Florida, with assistance from many other federal and state law enforcement agencies.  Corporal Kevin Watson of the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA), Lottery Scam Task Force in Jamaica, testified as an expert witness.  

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Clare Hochhalter, Nick Chase and Patrick Thomas and Trial Attorney Lorinda Laryea for the Department of Justice prosecuted the case.

Updated May 7, 2015