Four suspects are facing federal charges for allegedly engaging in a scheme to dupe their victims into believing that they had sent sexually explicit images to underage children and faced criminal prosecution if they did not pay to avoid involvement by law enforcement.
U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman announced that four suspects from South Carolina have been charged in White Plains federal court with participating in a scheme to defraud users of a dating website.
Beginning in August last year, Homeland Security Investigations began investigating several people who reported they had been extorted after using an undisclosed dating website. Each victim reported that they communicated through the website with individuals the victims believed to be an adult. Then, after the victim received and shared sexually-explicit photos with the alleged adults, the victim was contacted by a third party who claimed they had been communicating with a minor and needed to pay the minor’s family to prevent police involvement.
According to the indictment, the victims made payments via money transfers through Western Union and Walmart and/or through the purchase of Green Dot MoneyPak cards.
David Jones, 28, David Duwayne Taylor, 28, Kristin Knight, 28, and Destiny Bishop, 21, have been charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and wire fraud, which each carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
"As alleged, these defendants scared their victims into sending them money by fraudulently convincing them they were in peril of criminal prosecution for child exploitation," Berman stated. "This alleged fraud was not only cruel, it was also profitable for the defendants – until they were arrested.”
Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent in Charge Angel M. Melendez added, “these individuals allegedly chose their targets specifically to create vulnerabilities, seeking simply to make a profit through deceit and extortion. Anyone can fall victim to a criminal scheme, so it is important to remain diligent in text messaging and online communications, and to contact law enforcement if criminal activity is suspected.”
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