FARGO, N.D. (AP) — Jamaican lottery scammer Sanjay Williams got off a plane in Charlotte, North Carolina, in June 2013, on his way to meet with the people who moved money for him. He was promptly arrested by U.S. law enforcement authorities, convicted in May and sentenced to 20 years in a U.S. prison.
While the arrest on American soil spared authorities from extraditing Williams, rounding up his associate in the wide-ranging operation — and 13 other suspects still believed to be in Jamaica — is proving to be more onerous.
Authorities say Lavrick Willocks and Williams ran sophisticated schemes that bilked more than 70 mostly elderly people in the United States out of more than $5.6 million. He’s facing numerous charges in federal court — including conspiracy, money laundering, mail fraud and wire fraud. The process to extradite Willocks began two years ago, but authorities say he is currently building a third story onto his mansion in Jamaica.
Federal authorities from North Dakota met with Jamaican officials in October to discuss the progress on the extradition process, which can be complicated, according to Clare Hochhalter, the assistant U.S. attorney from North Dakota who is the lead prosecutor.
“We believe Jamaica will be receptive to the requests,” Hochhalter told The Associated Press. “Historically, we’re told Jamaican defendants have often waived extradition to the U.S.”
Jamaican lottery scams have been happening for years, but it’s believed that no cases of this magnitude have been prosecuted. The case began when an FBI agent from North Dakota, Frank 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 investigation led authorities to more than 70 victims throughout the country. Those subpoenaed for the Williams trial were from Madison and Pine Ridge, South Dakota, as well as Minnesota, Florida, Ohio, West Virginia, Utah, South Carolina, Alabama and California.
To bring the Jamaican defendants to court, American officials must provide so-called first person affidavits, which can include only what a witness saw, heard or personally experienced. It can also require multiple affidavits for each defendant.
Federal prosecutors in North Dakota mailed four boxes of affidavits and exhibits for the 14 defendants to the U.S. Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs in mid-November. Once that office finishes its review, the information will be passed on to U.S. State Department and then to Jamaican officials.
Hochhalter said he expects “movement by at least some of the defendants” in early 2016.
The 20-year sentence for Williams, who argued repeatedly with the judge and his own lawyer and filed numerous letters complaining about the American judicial system, could lead some of the suspects to fight extradition, Hochhalter said.
The first lottery scam suspect to be extradited was Damion Barrett in January, according to the Jamaica Constabulary Force. A federal judge in Florida sentenced Barrett in June to nearly four years in prison after he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud.