Eight Jamaicans charged in a transnational organized crime advance fee “lottery scam” fraud are now in federal custody in the United States, after the Jamaican government ordered them extradited last month. The eight were arrested in Jamaica over one year ago, shortly after the United States applied to the Jamaican government to arrest and extradite 14 defendants charged federally in a wire/mail fraud and money laundering conspiracy investigation dubbed “Operation Hard Copy.” The charges allege the scam bilked at least 90 mostly elderly U.S. residents out of over $5.7 million dollars, announced U.S. Attorney Christopher C. Myers of the District of North Dakota.
The eight defendants extradited are Dahlia Elaine Hunter, Kimberly Carlo-Jean Hudson, Kazrae Gray, Dario Palmer aka “Innocent Palmer,” Jason Joseph Jahalal, O’Neil Brown, Alrick McLeod aka “Birdman” aka “Z-Bird,” and Xanu Ann Morgan.
“After years of hard work we are pleased and grateful the Jamaican government joins us in recognizing the terrible toll of the Jamaican lottery fraud,” said U.S. Attorney Myers. “Untold numbers of Americans fall prey to scammers, losing millions upon millions of dollars, law-abiding Jamaicans suffer from the effects of increased lawlessness and violent crime associated with the fraud, and that negatively impacts citizens of both countries.”
“Cooperation between the United States and Jamaica was key in this extradition and remains integral to combating crime that crosses our borders,” said Acting U.S. Marshal Dan Orr of the District of North Dakota. “It sends a strong message that no matter the distance and location, the United States Marshals will work tirelessly to find offenders and bring them to justice.”
Another defendant, Lavrick Willocks, was arrested in Jamaica on Nov. 5, 2016, waived extradition and is in federal custody in North Dakota awaiting trial. Defendant Tristan Fisher was arrested on Dec. 2, 2016, in Trelawny Parish, Jamaica, and is currently in custody. A third defendant, Melinda Claudina Bulgin, was arrested June 16, 2015, in Providence, Rhode Island, and is awaiting trial. Four individuals charged in the case remain fugitives: Mario Hines aka “Buju Ramos,” Gregory Gooden, Akil Gray and Gareth Billings.
Operation Hard Copy began in 2012 and is based in the District of North Dakota. The FBI’s Bismarck Resident Agency and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service in Florida lead the investigation, with substantial assistance from the Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs, many federal and state law enforcement agencies, and Jamaican authorities. The ongoing investigation has resulted in multiple federal indictments throughout the United States. One of Willocks’ former co-defendants, Sanjay Ashani Williams, was convicted after trial in North Dakota in 2015 and sentenced to 20 years in federal prison for selling victim lead lists used in international cyber-fraud. More than 10 other defendants have entered guilty pleas in related cases in North Dakota.
“The apprehension and extradition of these suspects is possible because of the continuing efforts of the United States Marshals Service, the FBI, the Jamaican Fugitive Apprehension Team and all of our U.S. and Jamaican law enforcement colleagues,” said U.S. Attorney Myers. “We look forward to continuing to fight this fraud targeting some of our most vulnerable citizens.”
“These extraditions highlight the parallel efforts of U.S. and Jamaican law enforcement to prosecute those who prey on our nation’s senior citizens,” said Inspector in Charge Antonio J. Gomez of the U.S. Postal Service Inspection Service’s Miami Division. “The mission of the Postal Inspection Service is to protect consumers by ensuring the nation’s mail system is not used as a tool for fraud by international scammers.”
“Fraud schemes like this one have become all too common in the United States and take an exacting toll on their unwitting victims. Today’s success is the next step in stopping these crimes and bringing justice to criminals anywhere in the world,” Special Agent in Charge Richard T. Thornton of the FBI’s Minneapolis Division. “This effort was made possible by the hard work of our Bismarck Resident agents, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the U.S. Attorney’s Office. We are also grateful for the cooperation of the U.S. Marshals Service in bringing these defendants to the United States so that they may stand trial. The FBI and our partners look forward to presenting our case to the Court and are hopeful that justice will be served.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Clare Hochhalter, Assistant U.S. Attorney Nick Chase, Assistant U.S. Attorney James Patrick Thomas, and Department of Justice Trial Attorney Lorinda Laryea are prosecuting the cases.
An indictment is merely an accusation and individuals charged are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.