Officials: Inmates ran $560K online dating extortion scheme

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Authorities say inmates in the Carolinas claiming to be young women used illegal cellphones to extort more than half a million dollars from military personnel.

South Carolina U.S. Attorney Sherri Lydon said Wednesday that five inmates have been indicted on federal charges including extortion and wire fraud.

Court documents say the inmates used contraband cellphones to join dating websites, contacting and exchanging nude images with service members across the country. The inmates then posed as a father, said the girl was underage and demanded money to keep the exchanges private.

Lydon says inmates extorted more than $560,000 from more than 400 victims, who come from all branches and ranks of the military.

Ten others were charged with helping inmates collect the extortion payments via services including Western Union or PayPal.

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