6 years in US prison for lottery scammer

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scam-alert.jpgLavrick Willocks who masterminded a lottery scam that defrauded at least 95 Americans out of more than US$5.8 million was sentenced Monday to six years in a US federal prison.

Prosecutors said Willocks, 29, operated the scam out of a mansion in Jamaica where he lived with his mother, Dahlia Hunter.

US authorities eventually charged 27 people and identified victims in at least five states: North Dakota, South Dakota, South Carolina, Texas and Arizona. Officials said one of the victims died by suicide.

Willocks pleaded guilty in July 2017 to conspiracy, and prosecutors dropped 65 other counts of wire fraud, mail fraud and money laundering.

He faced up to 40 years in prison, but Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan O'Konek recommended only about six years because Willocks cooperated and his plea deal prompted several other defendants to also plead guilty.

Willocks, who stood and addressed U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland, apologised for his role in the scheme but accused the government of overstating his involvement. All his co-defendants have pleaded guilty or been convicted, and most have been sentenced, including Hunter, who was sentenced last week to about 1 ½ years of time served.

The case is being prosecuted in North Dakota because the investigation began there in 2012, a year after an 82 year-old woman lost her life savings. Defense attorney Joe Johnson asked for a sentence of two years -- about the time Willocks has already served -- saying the Jamaican became a reluctant leader only because he had a college education.

Willocks will be eligible for parole after serving about another three years.

ruel-reid-photo-1.jpgEducation Minister Senator Ruel Reid has cautioned school administrators to manage their budgets wisely and not to place undue pressure on parents to plug shortfalls. Senator Reid has again reminded administrators that only voluntary contributions are to be requested of parents at the secondary level.

He was addressing the Conference of the Association of Principals and Vice Principals held on Sunday.Mr. Reid said with so many families struggling financially, the government has made efforts to give adequate funding to schools.

"We can't go back to the stage where we are forcing the parents to make the contribution and then we lock the money up in fixed deposit... It creates social problems because the same poor parents that we have to contend with out there complain. They say that they can't support that policy," argued the minister.

He said all school budgets have been received and will be scrutinised.

ganja-seized.jpgThe narcotics police arrested and charged a man and woman, for breaches of the Dangerous Drugs Act on Thursday, October 11. They are 19-year-old Kaydian Sheppy of Kingston and 22-year-old Osborne Rowe, a labourer of Spanish Town in St. Catherine.

Sheppy and Rowe are jointly charged with possession of ganja, dealing in ganja, taking steps preparatory to export ganja, and conspiracy.

Reports are that about 11:30 a.m., Sheppy checked in to board a flight destined to the eastern Caribbean when her luggage was searched. Police say six and a half pounds of compressed ganja was found in a false compartment.

Sheppy was taken into custody and on further investigations, Rowe who gave the suitcase to Sheppy was also taken into custody.

The drug has an estimated street value of $26,000.

They are scheduled to appear in the Corporate Area parish court on Wednesday, October 17.

Nine alleged members of the Westmoreland based King's Valley gang, which includes two females, have been transferred to Kingston, following a joint police/military operation in Westmoreland on Wednesday. The operation was carried-out in King's Valley and Peggy Barry district in Grange Hill, Westmoreland.

Head of the Counter Terrorism and Organised Crime Investigation Branch (CTOC) Assistant Commissioner, Fitz Bailey, says the operation was conducted to curb murders in the area.

ACP Bailey says members of the King's Valley gang are wanted for various criminal activities in Westmoreland. The Assistant Commissioner says, a motor vehicle and a Taurus pistol are among items seized during the operation.

ACP Bailey has vowed to bring to justice, all other members of the king's valley gang.

Minister Bartlett orders Security Audit of Hotels

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ministry-of-tourism.jpgKINGSTON, Jamaica; October 14, 2018: Tourism Minister, Edmund Bartlett has ordered an intensive security audit of the tourism sector including hotels and attractions as part of efforts to strengthen destination assurance.

"I've directed the Tourism Product Development Company, which is in charge of maintaining quality assurance within the destination, to coordinate an intensive security audit of the sector so as to identify gaps and ensure that the destination remains safe, secure and seamless for visitors and locals alike. Security arrangements are part of the licensing requirements for many sector operators, so we will apply tough sanctions where breaches and or significant weaknesses are found. " said Minister Bartlett.

The Tourism Working Group established recently by Bartlett to conduct a comprehensive review of issues in the sector, and headed by PriceWaterhouseCoopers Senior Partner, Wilfred Baghaloo will also be a part of the process.

The Tourism Development Product Company, (TPDCo), through its various departments, works closely with all operators of tourism- related facilities promoting the attributes of a quality product, monitoring same and engaging the relevant authorities in a continuous effort to satisfy consumer demand and expectations. The company adopts, sets and promotes standards, guidelines and checklists for the industry in order to attain global competitiveness.

Minister Bartlett added that, "Security remains a top priority of my Ministry as this is an integral component to maintaining destination assurance. We are committed to ensuring that all visitors and locals feel safe."

The TPDCo will over the next couple of weeks review security protocols and issues across the sector and provide recommendations where needed. Tough actions where needed will follow.

MEXICO BEACH, Florida (AP): The small Gulf Coast community of Mexico Beach was known as a slice of Old Florida. Now it lies in splinters.Hit head-on by Hurricane Michael, homes in this town of about 1,190 people were shattered or ripped from their foundations. Boats were tossed like toys. The streets closest to the water looked as if a bomb had gone off. What the nine-foot storm surge didn't destroy, the 155mph (250 kph) winds finished off.

Now, rescuers and residents are struggling to get into the ground-zero town to assess the damage and search for the hundreds of people believed to have stayed behind.

Mishelle McPherson and her ex-husband looked for the elderly mother of a friend yesterday. The woman lived in a small cinderblock house about 150 yards from the Gulf and thought she would be OK.Her home was reduced to crumbled cinderblocks and pieces of floor tile.

"Aggy! Aggy!" McPherson yelled. The only sound that came back was the echo from the half-demolished building and the pounding of the surf.

"Do you think her body would be here? Do you think it would have floated away?" she asked.

As she walked down the street, McPherson pointed out pieces of what had been the woman's house: "That's the blade from her ceiling fan. That's her floor tile."

Drone footage of Mexico Beach on Thursday morning showed a stunning landscape of devastation. Few structures were unscathed. John Humphress, a storm chaser and drone pilot, arrived in Mexico Beach around 5 p.m. Wednesday, a few hours after Michael slammed into the coastline. He had one word to describe what he saw: "Apocalyptic."

State officials said 285 people in Mexico Beach had refused to leave ahead of the hurricane despite a mandatory evacuation order. A National Guard team went into the area and found 20 survivors overnight, and more crews were pushing into the area on Thursday. The fate of many other residents was unknown, authorities said.

Vanessa Bling hits Billboard

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vanessa-bling-addi.jpgDancehall artiste Vanessa Bling is rejoicing this week as her 'Still Standing' EP has made its Billboard Reggae Chart debut. Released on September 18, the six-track EP features the lead singles '10 Bags' and 'Freedom' which have been making the rounds on various radio stations locally and internationally.

Currently signed to Atlanta-based Outtaspace Entertainment and managed by En-Treeg Records, the Future Guaranteed artiste learned on Tuesday that her third EP debuted at number nine on the famed chart, earning the Hot Shot Debut Award.

"This is an amazing feeling," Bling said. "I always believed that this was where I belonged, and I am thankful for my label, my management and my entire team for believing in me as well.".

This is the first time the artiste has charted on Billboard, but she believes that she is destined for better.

"The work my team and I have been putting in is no joke. Believe me when I tell you, this is just the beginning," Bling said.

Still Standing isn't Vanessa Bling's first attempt at charting with an album. As Gaza Slim, she released Adidjaheim Records Presents: Introducing Vanessa Bling As Gaza Slim in 2011 which featured Vybz Kartel. Her second EP, Girl Boss, came out in 2012.

VANESSA BLING/.PSALM:35 on Instagram: "Lord I thank you 🙏Thanks to my amazing team and my fans for the love and support 🙏let's go #number1 #stillstandingEp @billboard #debut9..."

g-whizz.jpgSince fellow entertainer Popcaan posted a clip of the incident in which G Whizz chucked off into a not-crwded show and fell flat on his face on his Instagram page, the post has taken on life of its own with a multitude of persons commenting and reposting it.

However, G Whizz said that the Unruly Boss went further than just uploading the video.

"Big up Popcaan cause him post it and it go viral. Him actually message me after, and I was invited to his upcoming show in December in St Thomas," he said.

With another performance scheduled for tomorrow in Brown's Town, St Ann, he said he could not promise that he would not try the stunt again.

"I really don't know what to expect because sometime when yuh performing and the vibes a di whole show, things just happen. Same like how mi neva wake up and say mi a go jump off a di stage a Portmore today," he said.

For now G Whizz is looking forward to Unruly Fest scheduled for December 22.

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g-whizz.jpgEntertainer G Whizz has gone viral after a clip of him diving into fans and falling flat on his face while performing at the Release College Tour at the Portmore Community College last Monday. He sprang into the air to dive into the arms of some females who were enjoying his performance, but instead of them catching him, as he had hoped, the girls all gave him enough space to fall like a ripe breadfruit off a tree.

The "Life Soon Sort Out" singer slammed into the ground, but fortunately he says he only received a few cuts and bruises. Persons are wondering why G Whizz would have chucked off like that because there was really no crowd to catch him. In an interview with Jamaican tabloid, the Star, G Whizz is reported as saying that he was motivated by the response that he was getting from singing his hit song, he explained that he was trying to take his performance to a higher level by springing into the air, soaring like a bird for a few seconds before landing on his hands, which prevented him from suffering more severe injuries.

"The show was just full of vibes, and mi just deh deh a sing, and di crowd a sing wid mi. Di way the show get nice, mi just decide fi dweet," he told The Star.

"Before I jumped, I leaned into the crowd a couple times and the girls dem ketch mi. It was just fun, but people nuh see all a dat (his performance), dem see di drop," G Whizz added.

Now that a clip of the incident has been going viral, he said that rather than feeling embarrassed, he is laughing just as much as everybody else is.

"I was laughing when I fell, and now that it out and it gone viral and people a laugh, I am laughing too," he said.

Pointing out that it is all entertainment, G Whizz said that this is not the first time he has had a mishap while performing.

"One time when I was on stage and I was performing in Canada, my pants buss out and mi underpants a show. I was in the middle of mi show, and mi haffi continue sing. The people there were laughing too, but dem enjoy the show same way too. So a just entertainment, it come wid some spontaneous moments," he told THE STAR.