A federal judge in North Dakota on Monday ordered a Rhode Island woman convicted of funneling lottery scam money between the US and Jamaica to remain jailed pending a February sentencing hearing where she could face a stiffer sentence than the alleged mastermind, the AP reports. "Her hands were all over the conspiracy" that authorities said bilked at least 90 mostly elderly Americans out of more than $5.7 million, US District Judge Daniel Hovland said at the end of a contentious detention hearing in which Melinda Bulgin, 28, of Providence, RI, verbally sparred with him and Assistant US Attorney Jonathan O'Konek. Defense attorney Chad McCabe called her "very emotional."
A jury in September convicted Bulgin, 28, of conspiracy, fraud, and money laundering in what is believed to be the first large-scale Jamaican lottery scam tried in US courts. Authorities identified victims in numerous states, including at least one person who committed suicide. It's being prosecuted in North Dakota because that's where the initial identified victim lives. A government filing in October suggests the appropriate sentence for Bulgin under federal guidelines is life in prison. O'Konek says the actual filing he will make will likely be "lower than life." His filing indicates her sentence might still be higher than for Lavrick Willocks, who authorities say was the kingpin of the operation. He pleaded guilty in July 2017 to conspiracy in a deal with prosecutors and was sentenced to six years. (This lottery programmer said he scammed $24 million "for the challenge.")