3 sign plea deals in lottery scam

Posted: August 1, 2014 at 2:53 a.m.

FARGO, N.D. — The first plea agreements have been reached in a wide-ranging federal investigation into a Jamaican lottery scam targeting mostly elderly victims in the United States, including one woman from North Dakota who agreed to empty her savings account and then take out a loan on a life insurance policy.

More than two dozen people have been indicted in the case, including some who will likely go to trial. Prosecutors say the defendants induced people to send millions of dollars to them to cover fees for lottery winnings.

U.S. Attorney Timothy Purdon would not comment specifically on the case but said people should be on guard.

Jamaican lottery schemes have been happening for many years. The Jamaican and U.S. governments set up a task force in 2009 to stop the scams, but the problem has gotten worse, prosecutors say. The case being investigated in North Dakota was unsealed in March 2013 with 15 indictments.

Three of the defendants signed plea agreements this week on conspiracy charges. Shannon O’Connor, James Simpson and Mikael Gillette each face a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison and a $1 million fine. O’Connor and Gillette are from south Florida. Simpson was arrested in Kentucky.