A prominent Jamaican disc jockey has been accused in an ongoing investigation into a lottery scam targeting elderly victims in the Dakotas and elsewhere, federal officials said Tuesday.
Deon-ville O'Hara, also known as ZJ Wah Wa, is among 26 people who in the last year have been indicted by federal grand jury in North Dakota. He is charged with three counts, including conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, and money laundering. Each count carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison.
O'Hara and others allegedly ran a lottery scam in Jamaica that induced elderly victims throughout the United States to send millions of dollars to them to cover fees for lottery winnings. O'Hara would travel to the U.S. to pick up money from victims, prosecutors said.
O'Hara was stopped by Jamaican customs officials at Sangster International Airport in November with $105,000 in U.S. currency in his possession. Investigators said the cash was proceeds from the scheme.
O'Hara wasn't arrested by U.S. authorities until earlier this month when he was visiting Florida. He is currently jailed in the Miami area.
Attorney Herman Frank Rubio Jr., who was appointed to represent O'Hara for his initial courtappearance in Florida, told The Associated Press Tuesday that O'Hara has agreed to be transferred to North Dakota. Rubio had no further comment.
Fifteen people originally were charged in the case in May 2013, but authorities said it did little to stop the scammers from phoning residents in North and South Dakota.
"We unsealed the indictment (Tuesday) in order to be able to again warn people that if someone contacts you over the telephone telling you that you have won a lottery that you did not enter, hang up the telephone because it's a scam," said Timothy Purdon, U.S. attorney from North Dakota.
The Jamaican and U.S. governments set up a task force in 2009 in an attempt to derail lottery schemes. Authorities said last year that at least 30,000 calls from Jamaica were being made every day trying to defraud U.S. citizens.
The original indictment listed as victims an 83-year-old North Dakota woman who sent seven separate checks for nearly $158,000 after she was promised $19 million in winnings, and a South Dakota man who sent a $14,000 cashier's check after he was promised $3.5 million and a 2012 Mercedes.