Jamaican Man Sentenced to Prison for Involvement in International Lottery Fraud Scheme
BISMARCK, ND—U.S. Attorney Christopher C. Myers announced that on Nov. 24, 2015, a Montego Bay, Jamaica man was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison, and ordered to pay $5,672,561.15 in restitution, after having been convicted at trial in North Dakota on charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud or mail fraud, conspiracy to commit international money laundering, and 35 counts of wire fraud associated with his participation in the Jamaican lottery fraud.
Sanjay Ashani Williams, 26, was the first Jamaican national tried and convicted in the United States for selling lead lists for use in international cyberfraud. Lead lists consist of the names, telephone numbers, and personal information of potential victims 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 consumers’ contact information to scammers for as much as $5.50 per potential victim.
“The victims who—despite their regret or embarrassment—come forward to tell their stories are heroes,” said U.S. Attorney Christopher C. Myers. “Victims are targeted because their age or personal circumstances make them particularly vulnerable; the resulting harm is financial, psychological, and physical. Until recently, these scammers operated with impunity. We are helping to find them and hold them accountable for their crimes.”
Before getting into the lead list business, Williams personally scammed numerous people, sometimes threatening the safety of his victims and their families. Later, Williams transitioned to selling lead lists, which was more lucrative for him. Williams knowingly sold “lead lists” to co-conspirators Lavrick Willocks and approximately 400 other Jamaican lottery fraud scammers, identifying victim targets for the lottery scammers. These scammers, all of whom were 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 car. 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 victims sent the “fees,” the victims were required to send more and more money; however, the victims did not receive the promised prize.
In this case alone, more than 80 victims of Williams’ conspiracy were identified, with reported losses totaling more than $5.5 million. Individual victims of this conspiracy lost as little as $300 and as much as $850,000 to Williams and his co-conspirators. Nationwide, the number of Jamaican Lottery Fraud victims likely is in the millions, with some estimates of annual losses in excess of $1 billion.
In addition to Williams, 25 other defendants from Jamaica and the United States were charged in the same indictment. Eleven of those defendants have been arrested and pleaded guilty in this case. In separate indictments, four additional co-conspirators have been charged. Of those, two have pleaded guilty and the remaining two are awaiting trial. The investigation is on-going.
Victim after victim in this case testified to the financial devastation and fear caused by the scammers, who frequently threatened victims with violence. Sanjay Williams personally threatened to kill one victim’s sons and rape the victim’s daughters after the victim refused to send additional money. Williams told the victim that he knew where the victim lived. Another victim of the conspiracy was so distraught by her involvement in the scheme that she committed suicide after investigators set up a meeting to speak with her about it.
The lottery scam victims in the United States are not the only victims of Sanjay Williams’ crimes. Top Jamaican law enforcement officials emphasize that lottery scamming has directly led to a dramatic increase in violent crime—including murder, shootings, and extortion—in Jamaica, as rival scammers battle one another over lead lists and profits. Testimony at trial indicated that 1,000 murders in Jamaica can be attributed to scamming activity in the last 10 years. Further, scamming activity creates ripple-effects harming legitimate Jamaican businesses, including tourism and discouraging foreign investment.
The investigation is being conducted by the FBI’s North Dakota office and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) in Florida, with assistance from many other federal and state law enforcement agencies, as well as Jamaican law enforcement.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Clare Hochhalter, Nick Chase, and James Patrick Thomas, and Trial Attorney Lorinda Laryea of the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division.