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Suspect in J'can lottery scam wants evidence suppressed

Monday, December 18, 2017

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BISMARCK, North Dakota (AP) — The last suspect set for trial in a large-scale Jamaican lottery scam being prosecuted in the US is seeking to have evidence suppressed.

Melinda Bulgin, of Providence, Rhode Island, maintains her rights were violated when authorities questioned her in Jamaica in May 2015 and in Rhode Island in July of that year.

"All statements, admissions, confessions, letters, recordings and other evidence directly pertaining to the illegal interrogations must be suppressed," defense attorney Kevin Chapman said in court documents.

Prosecutors have not yet responded to the defense motion. A hearing on the matter is scheduled for January 22.

That was the day Bulgin's trial was to begin, but both the defense and prosecution have asked that it be delayed. The government, which calls Bulgin "not a minor player" in the alleged scam, anticipates a 10-day trial with about 50 witnesses, according to Assistant US Attorney Clare Hochhalter.

Prosecutors believe the case to be the first large-scale Jamaican lottery scam prosecuted in the US. The suspects are accused of calling victims about bogus lottery winnings, persuading them to send advance fees to receive the purported winnings, then keeping the money without paying out anything to the victims.

The scheme began to unravel when a woman in North Dakota lost her life savings of more than $300,000 in 2011. At least 90 Americans lost a total of more than US$5.7 million, authorities say. A federal investigation resulted in charges against 27 people, including a block of 12 suspects who earlier pleaded guilty or were convicted.

Of the current block of 15 suspects still being prosecuted, two remain fugitives in Jamaica. Twelve others have either pleaded guilty or reached plea deals with prosecutors, including five this month. Bulgin is the only one arrested who is still fighting dozens of conspiracy, fraud and money laundering charges.

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