Sextortion is about extorting people. These schemes are popular among criminals, including South Carolina prisoners, who catfished and blackmailed US Army soldiers.
According to a search warrant filed in a Charleston, South Carolina Federal Court, soldiers that planned on meeting a woman they assumed was close to their ages. Yet, she was anything but that.
The men met the “woman” on a dating app. Shortly after messages were exchanged they received unsolicited nude photos. This soon lead to some major trouble.
Then, someone posing as “her father” decided he wanted to chime in on the messages to the soldiers to say that his “daughter” is underage. He then threatened to call the police… that is… unless the soldiers send him money.
What Is Sexstortion All About?
Sextortion is extortion related to sex crimes, according to the FBI.
In the case above, sextortion is referenced in the search warrants accusing inmates in the South Carolina Department of Corrections of such a crime.
The Army says that this sextortion scheme has been making its way around the United States since 2015. Just this month, Army investigators filed search warrants to gain access to two Gmail accounts belonging to the alleged scammers.
As used to describe an abuse of power, sextortion is a form of corruption in which people entrusted with power – such as government officials, judges, educators, law enforcement personnel, and employers seek to extort sexual favors in exchange for something within their authority to grant or withhold.
This scheme was pulled off by what ended up being South Carolina state prison inmates.
Google Served with Search Warrant for Prisoners’ Emails
The search warrant demanded Google turn over emails related to the alleged scheme. Court filings revealed Google complied with the search warrant and handed over:
…digital information pertaining to email account ‘firstname.lastname@example.org.’
The search warrant details the entire prison sextortion scheme, which has been going on for years now. Most of the time:
- A solider will meet woman on the dating app PletyofFish Next
- The South Carolina inmates usually pretend to be around the same age as the soldiers that they are targeting
- Then they move out of the app to chatting via text message
Internet access varies by state and prison facility. Some prisons charge inmates massive fees to use tablet computers. Inmates in some South Carolina prisons have found ways to go online.
Many prisoners use PlentyofFish to make legitimate dating accounts while serving time.
‘Father’ Gets Involved in SC Inmate Sextortion Scam
The warrant explains that next comes the nude photos and the angry “father” threatening the soldier. He then demands money or he will call the cops. According to the warrant:
Often the victim will pay out of the fear that they will lose their careers (our victim sets are military service members) as there are compounding issues of conduct unbecoming and the fear that the victim truly believes they are in possession of child pornography.
This disgusting and heinous scheme is being played out by endless inmates housed in various correctional facilities within the South Carolina Department of Corrections.
Investigators say that a money mule has been identified. This person gets the extorted money from the solider for an inmate at Broad River Correctional Institute in Columbia, South Carolina.
Jalisa Thompson, the scheme’s money mule, told Army investigators that she would pick up money for a man she knew as “Dre” from a Wal-Mart Western Union.
She would then do a deposit into the man’s SCDOC account or on prepaid debit cards. The warrant identifies Dre as Wendell Wilkins.
No charges have been filed yet.
SC Inmate Extortion Scheme: What Is Operation Surprise Party?
The U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command has been leading the investigation on the sextortion scheme at South Carolina prisons. They are calling the investigation Operation Surprise Party.
In an online post earlier to soldiers, U.S. Army Special Agent Daniel Andrews said:
Criminals will try to get unsuspecting service members to engage in online sexual activities and then demand money or favors in exchange for not publicizing potentially embarrassing information or turning them over to law enforcement.
Andrews warned soldiers to beware of this type of extortion scam on the Army’s website:
If you meet a person on a legitimate online dating site there is very little chance that you are actually communicating with an underage person.
It is therefore very unlikely that you sent or received child pornography or provided your images/videos to a minor.
If you met someone online who later claims to be underage you should immediately cease all communications with that person and notify Army CID.
What Can We Learn from the SC Prison Sextortion Schemes?
The young and often sometimes naive service members of US Army have never really been the core of fiscal responsibility. Exorbitant purchases or financial commitments on an E-1 or E-2 salary often leaves bank accounts, fairly vacant.
It is therefore vital that ‘we the people’ keep this in mind when looking for love on dating apps.
Remember, this good old golden rule, if it seems too good to be true, then it probably is!
About One South Carolina Prison: Columbia River Correctional Facility AKA Prisneyland
Columbia River Correctional Facility (CRCI) is a South Carolina state prison that is minimum-security. It is one of the least horrible in the state.
CRCI is called Prisneyland by prisoners due to its relatively relaxed style. Several correctional officers and inmates say that the relationship between the two is much like that of a babysitter and a child.
One prisoner said CRCI is generally not like other facilities where he served time in the past. He says if guards at CRCI want to show dominance, they talk down to an inmate rather than physically harass and assault him.
A sandwich board stands on the prison grounds of CRCI specifying the dress code for the prison:
- Hats are banned and forbidden to be worn by visitors
- Prison visitors may not wear anything demin that is blue since inmates wear that
- Anyone vesting CRCI is forbidden from wearing a smart watch
- No one is allowed to carry cell phones inside the facility
- Dresses, or shorts more than two inches above the middle of the knee may not be worn by any visitor
- Wireless bras are encouraged because underwire may set off metal detectors which could get the visit denied
This sign stresses that this applies to all visitors. South Carolina state prisons dress code bans showing too much flesh equally on the parts of men and women. Revealing and tight-fitting clothes as well as leggings are also banned.