US authorities want to seize more than $18 million from a New Zealand bank, after a Vanuatu conman was convicted in Memphis, Tennessee, last week for his part in a US$100 million ($142 million) international lottery scam.

US District Judge Bernice Donald found Robert Murray Bohn, of Vanuatu, guilty last Wednesday of racketeering, conspiracy, money laundering and mail fraud, which she said was committed in the course of laundering money from the lottery fraud.

Federal prosecutors have recovered US$16 million from the scam's engineers, and hope Bohn's conviction will help them get US$13 million more from a New Zealand bank, Memphis newspaper Commercial Appeal reports.

Details of the bank have not been published.

The Memphis office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) began investigating the Canadian-based lottery scheme in 1996 after it targeted elderly US citizens through 30 front companies to sell them tickets in foreign lotteries, raking in small amounts of money from thousands of people.

The lottery scheme mastermind, Alvin Moss, 72, a Canadian citizen, was arrested in 2002 in Costa Rica, and pleaded guilty in July to organised fraud, and was sentenced to five years in prison.

He agreed to surrender US$12 million to the US government, and to help FBI agents recover millions more, starting with each of his three adult children last month handing over a cheque for US$1 million.

Jeffrey Allen Moss, 33, Larry Charles Moss, 42, and Beverly Ann Moss, 40, each held directorships in their father's companies, and pleaded guilty to importing lottery materials.

Front companies set up by Moss's group shuttled money into secret bank accounts in New Zealand, Canada, Australia, Barbados, Virgin Islands, and Vanuatu.

Bohn was in charge of money laundering, moving illegal profits through different banks to avoid detection.

A Memphis grand jury delivered an indictment against Bohn on May 8, 2002, and he was arrested in December 2002.

Prosecutors said millions of victims paid small amounts, usually US$25, but that the payments totalled US$100 million over several years.

Little of the money was paid out as winnings, and Moss's firm promoted the lotteries with false promises, including claims that a psychic had chosen lucky numbers.

Victims generally didn't check to see if anyone was actually buying the tickets, and the indictment said that even where people had a winning number, the winnings were split with hundreds of others who had been given the same number.

- NZPA