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.