Prosecutors detail background of lottery scam suspect
BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — The last suspect fighting charges in what is believed to be the first large-scale Jamaican lottery scam tried in U.S. courts funneled money between the two countries through her airline job, prosecutors allege in new court filings.
Melinda Bulgin, of Providence, Rhode Island, also has had legal training, contradicting her assertion that she was confused about her legal rights when questioned by authorities, Assistant U.S. Attorney Clare Hochhalter argues.
The government is opposing Bulgin’s effort to have statements and other evidence from alleged illegal interrogations in Jamaica and Rhode Island in 2015 disallowed at trial. Bulgin maintains her rights to have an attorney present and to not incriminate herself were violated.
Hochhalter argues that Bulgin wasn’t entitled to U.S. Constitution protections in Jamaica and that during interrogations on U.S. soil she was made aware of her rights and didn’t “unequivocally” request an attorney.
Bulgin denied in court documents that she had any form of legal training, even though she studied forensic science — the application of science to criminal and civil law — at Pace University in New York,” Hochhalter said, calling her “an intelligent, successful scammer.
A hearing on the matter is scheduled Jan. 22 in federal court in North Dakota, where the case began when a state resident lost her life savings of more than $300,000 in 2011. At least 90 Americans lost a total of more than $5.7 million to the scam, authorities say.
The suspects are accused of calling victims about bogus lottery winnings, persuading them to pay advance fees to receive the purported winnings, then keeping the money without paying out anything to the victims. Hochhalter said Bulgin was caught while transporting cash between the U.S. and Jamaica “on one of her many virtually free trips to Jamaica as a then-employee of Delta Airlines.”
A federal investigation resulted in conspiracy, fraud and money laundering charges against 27 people. All have pleaded guilty or been convicted except Bulgin and two suspects who remain fugitives in Jamaica.
Bulgin was to stand trial this month, but the prosecution and defense requested it be delayed due in part to “voluminous” evidence. U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland has moved the trial to mid-September.
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