The bust was coordinated by a slew of law enforcement agencies, including from the military: the Naval Criminal Investigative Services (NCIS), US Army Criminal Investigations Command, US Air Force Office of Special Investigations, Department of Defense Criminal Investigative Services, IRS Criminal Investigative Services, the US Marshals Service, the South Carolina Department of Corrections, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division and the US Attorney’s Office.
Fifteen US prison inmates have been indicted for posting pictures of girls on dating sites and sextorting hundreds of military personnel who fell for the phony profiles after sending nude photos to their victims.
To cap off the scam, the prisoners posed as the girls’ fathers and threatened to report them for disseminating child abuse imagery.
At other times, inmates posed as police officers and threatened to arrest the servicemen unless they forked over payment, according to the indictments.
One of the indictments describes how inmate Wendell Wilkins allegedly claimed that the money was needed for “counseling and medical bills for the trauma that his underage daughter suffered from the sexually explicit text messages.” According to NCIS special agent Drew Goodridge, the agencies are still investigating another 250 people for the ongoing probe, which began in January 2017 with the code name “Operation Surprise Party.” The prisoners allegedly had a network of helpers on the outside: the unsealed indictments allege that the prisoners recruited family and friends to set up a network of bank accounts, money transfer services, online payment services and prepaid debit cards to access and spend the money.