BISMARCK - United States Attorney Chris Myers announced that another man accused of participating in a transnational organized crime advance fee "lottery scam" fraud, which bilked at least 80 mostly elderly U.S. residents out of millions of dollars, has been arrested in Jamaica.
Federal fugitive Tristan Fisher was arrested on December 2, 2016, in Trelawney Parish, Jamaica. Fisher, a Jamaican national, is one of 15 defendants charged federally in an international wire/mail fraud and money laundering conspiracy investigation, dubbed "Operation Hard Copy." Ongoing international investigation has resulted in several federal indictments throughout the United States, and more than 32 charged or convicted defendants. The Operation Hard Copy investigation began in 2012 and is based in the District of North Dakota.
Fisher’s arrest follows on the heels of nine others who have been arrested in Jamaica: Dario Palmer, Jason Jahalal, O’Neil Brown, Kazrae Gray, Alrick McLeod, Dahlia Hunter, and Kimberly Hudson, all of whom were arrested on March 30, 2016; Xanu-Ann Morgan was arrested on March 31, 2016; and Lavrick Willocks was arrested on November 5, 2016. Willocks, age 27, was taken into custody after being located hiding in a garden at a hotel in Kingston, Jamaica. Arrests of Fisher and Willocks are the result of months of continuing investigation by U.S. and Jamaican authorities, including the United States Marshal’s Service working in partnership with the Jamaica Counter-Terrorism and Organised Crime Fugitive Apprehension Team.
Fisher, Willocks, and others in custody in Jamaica face numerous charges in U.S. federal court, including Conspiracy, Wire Fraud, and Money Laundering. "Fisher is one of 10 defendants who are in custody in Jamaica and are awaiting extradition proceedings following 14 extradition warrants which were issued in Jamaica on February 29, 2016," said Clare Hochhalter, the federal prosecutor who leads the prosecution team in North Dakota.
"We’re grateful for the continuing efforts of the United States Marshals Service, the High Plains Fugitive Task Force, the Jamaican Fugitive Apprehension Team, the Jamaican Operations Linked to Telemarketing Fraud Task Force, as well as all of our other U.S and Jamaican law enforcement partners," added U.S. Attorney Myers. "We look forward to bringing these 10 defendants, and others, to justice in the United States."
United States Marshal Paul Ward echoed Myers’ sentiment, "The United States Marshals Service is proud to work with the United States Attorney’s Office here in North Dakota and elsewhere. Finding federal fugitives and bringing them to justice is a big part of what we do. We’ll continue to do it, no matter how long it takes and no matter where fugitives may be found."
The process to extradite Willocks, Fisher, and the others began three years ago after the investigation identified hundreds of victims, many of them elderly or otherwise vulnerable, throughout the United States. One of Willocks’ former co-defendants, Sanjay Williams, was convicted after trial in North Dakota in 2015. Sanjay Ashani Williams, age 26, was the first Jamaican national tried and convicted in the United States for selling lead lists for use in international cyber-fraud.
Evidence presented at the trial of Williams demonstrated that victims of the scam were targeted by the use of lead lists, which are the names, telephone numbers, and personal information of potential victims. The lists are often assembled in the United States and are sold to lottery scammers. Some lead lists are created by list wholesalers who send out bogus mass mailings purporting to be sweepstakes entries. Consumers, thinking the mailings are legitimate, pay to enter the non-existent sweepstakes. The wholesalers in turn pocket the entry fee then sell the consumer contact information to scammers for as much as $5.50 per potential victim.
United States District Court Chief Judge Daniel Hovland sentenced Williams to 20 years in federal prison, without parole, on November 24, 2015. At the trial victims from South Dakota, Minnesota, Florida, Ohio, West Virginia, Utah, South Carolina, Alabama, and California testified. The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit upheld Williams’ verdict and sentence on November 4, 2016.
The Operation Hard Copy investigation is being led by the FBI’s North Dakota office and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service in Florida, with assistance from many federal and state law enforcement agencies, as well as Jamaican law enforcement.
Williams, Willocks, Fisher, and others have been prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Clare Hochhalter, Nick Chase, and James Patrick Thomas, along with Trial Attorney Lorinda Laryea of the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division.
An indictment is merely an accusation and individuals charged are presumed innocent until proven guilty.