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ZJ Wah Wa files plea deal in lottery scam case

Published:Tuesday | October 7, 2014 | 4:23 PM
Disc jockey Deon-ville 'ZJ Wah Wa' O'Hara. - File

FARGO, North Dakota(AP):

Disc jockey Deon-ville O'Hara, also known as ZJ Wah Wa, who has been charged for his role in a lottery scam targeting older people in the Dakotas and elsewhere is scheduled to plead guilty.




O'Hara is among 26 people who were indicted by a federal grand jury in North Dakota, where the investigation is centered.



He is charged with three counts, including conspiracy, wire fraud, and money laundering.



A plea agreement filed last month calls for O'Hara to plead guilty to conspiracy, which carries a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison.



A hearing is scheduled for October 24 in Bismarck.



Steven Mottinger, O'Hara's attorney, declined to comment.



United States Attorney Timothy Purdon would not comment specifically, but said people should be on guard and discuss possible scams with family members.



"I cannot say this too many times or loudly enough, if you get a phone call telling you that you won a lottery you didn't enter, hang up, hang up, hang up," Purdon said. "It's a scam."



The original indictment listed among the victims an 83-year-old North Dakota woman who sent seven separate checks for a total of nearly US$158,000 after she was promised $19 million in winnings.



Authorities say she was talked into emptying her savings account and taking out a loan on a life insurance policy.



Other victims included a South Dakota man who sent a US$14,000 cashier's check after he was promised US$3.5 million and a 2012 Mercedes, and a 92-year-old man from Charleston, South Carolina, who mailed an US$80,000 cashier's check to one of the defendants, court documents show.



Seven people have pleaded guilty in the case and are scheduled for sentencing in March 2015.



Jamaican lottery schemes have been happening for many years.



The Jamaica and US governments set up a task force in 2009 to stop the scams, but the problem has gotten worse, Purdon said.



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