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Final 2 fugitives in Jamaican lottery scam captured

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

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NORTH DAKOTA, United States (AP) — The last two fugitives in a Jamaican lottery scam that authorities said cost dozens of mostly elderly Americans millions of dollars have been captured in the Caribbean country.

A Jamaican counter-terrorism and fugitive apprehension team arrested Mario Hines on January 9 and Gareth Billings on February 23, according to Assistant US Attorney Clare Hochhalter.

Both suspects later waived their right to fight extradition to the US.

Hines on March 2 made his initial appearance in US District Court in North Dakota, where the case is being prosecuted. He was ordered held until trial.

Billings remains in Jamaican custody as he awaits extradition in the coming weeks, Hochhalter said.

Authorities have sought the two men for years. They're among a group of 15 suspects who are still being prosecuted in North Dakota in what is believed to be the first large-scale Jamaican lottery scam tried in US courts.

The case began when a North Dakota woman lost her life savings of more than US$300,000 in 2011. At least 90 Americans lost a total of more than US$5.7 million to the scam, authorities said.

The suspects are accused of calling victims about bogus lottery winnings, persuading them to pay advance fees to receive the purported winnings, then keeping the money without paying out anything to the victims.

A federal investigation resulted in conspiracy, fraud and money laundering charges against 27 people. All have pleaded guilty or been convicted except Hines, Billings and one other suspect.

Authorities dubbed the case “Operation Hard Copy”, a reference to lists of prospective victims' contact information used by scammers.

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