South Carolina inmates allegedly catfished over 400 American service members and extorted more than $560,000 from them, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service said in a Wednesday press release. The inmates, allegedly aided by “outside civilian associates,” are accused of targeting members of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps through dating websites like PlentyofFish. In the press release, NCIS said it had “executed arrest warrants and served summonses” on Wednesday for “money laundering, extortion and wire fraud” charges in connection with the “sextortion ring.”
The inmates allegedly pursued “online romantic relationships” with the servicemen and exchanged “pictures” with them. After the images were sent, the inmates then posed as the fictitious female’s father or a law enforcement official and told the servicemen the “female” was underage, authorities said. The inmates then allegedly demanded a bribe, telling their targets they would not press charges in exchange for the money. The agency said many of the targets complied out of fear of losing their jobs and being found in possession of what they thought was child pornography. The Daily Beast reported previously that the scheme lasted for at least two years after it started in 2015.