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Another Jamaican lottery scam suspect scheduled for trial

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

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BISMARCK, North Dakota (AP) — Another defendant charged in a Jamaican lottery scam that authorities say bilked mostly elderly Americans out of millions of dollars has been added to the group who will stand trial in January.

Gregory Gooden was arrested in Jamaica on June 6 and brought to the US late last month to face charges of conspiracy, fraud and money laundering. He pleaded not guilty on August 1, and US District Judge Daniel Hovland on Monday granted a request by prosecutors to schedule him for trial January 22 in federal court in North Dakota, where the case is based.

Eight other suspects have pleaded not guilty and were already scheduled for trial beginning that day, though Assistant US Attorney Clare Hochhalter has said plea deal talks are in the works with many of them.

The man accused of masterminding the scheme, Lavrick Willocks, pleaded guilty to conspiracy in late July in a deal with prosecutors. His sentencing hasn't been scheduled. Another suspect, Alrick McLeod, has reached a similar agreement and is expected to change his plea from not guilty on October 16.

US Magistrate Judge Charles Miller on Monday denied a request by McLeod's attorney for a detention hearing. Miller cited the likelihood that McLeod will be imprisoned for his role in the scam, which authorities say cost at least 90 mostly elderly Americans a total of more than US$5.7 million, including a North Dakota woman who lost her life savings in 2011 and sparked the investigation.

Authorities have dubbed the case "Operation Hard Copy," a reference to lists of prospective victims' contact information used by scammers. Fifteen people are charged. Two are in Jamaica awaiting extradition, including one who was recently apprehended after being on the run more than a year, and two others remain fugitives.

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