May 7 (Reuters) - A federal jury in North Dakota on Thursday convicted a Jamaican man of participating in a lottery scam that cost dozens of people losses totaling more than $5 million, prosecutors said.
Sanjay Ashani Williams, 25, was found guilty of conspiracy to commit wire fraud or mail fraud, conspiring to commit international money laundering and 35 counts of wire fraud, prosecutors said.
Williams, of Montego Bay, was one of the first Jamaican defendants implicated in the lottery fraud to be tried and convicted in the United States, prosecutors said.
The scam has snagged more than 70 victims who lost sums ranging from $300 to $800,000, prosecutors said.
“It is our hope that this groundbreaking prosecution will open doors for other jurisdictions to prosecute these cases and that the lessons we’ve learned can be used across the country,” Acting U.S. Attorney Christopher Myers said in a statement.
Prosecutors said the scammers told people by telephone or mail they had won a large sweepstakes prize and a luxury car and repeatedly asked for amounts of up to thousands of dollars to cover non-existent taxes, fees or insurance.
If the victims paid fees, they were asked for more and more money and never received the promised prize, prosecutors said.
The fraud at times included official-looking documents, email addresses, telephone numbers or bogus checks and scammers often impersonated government officials or banks to further the fraud, prosecutors said.
Eleven other U.S. and Jamaican defendants have pleaded guilty and 14 indicted defendants are awaiting arrest and extradition from Jamaica, prosecutors said. Three other co-conspirators were charged separately.
Williams faces up to 40 years in prison and millions of dollars in fines, restitution, and forfeiture. He is set to be sentenced Aug. 6 in U.S. District Court in Bismarck. (Reporting by David Bailey in Minneapolis; Editing by Eric Walsh)