For more than a year, hundreds of military members thought they were finding love online.
But it wasn’t so. Instead, it was a case of prison inmates posing as women online, looking for victims in a scheme that investigators say netted more than half a million dollars.
The service members, spread across the United States, were from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps. They thought they were chatting with women on dating websites and. They developed a relationship online and allegedly enough trust to exchange naked photos.
Then the scam came.
After the service member received the sexually explicit photos, investigators said, the tone quickly changed. The persona would shift from the woman to a father or a police officer, telling the service members they’d been chatting with a minor. Then they would demand money.
The “father” claimed that the money was for counseling and medical bills for trauma that the “underage daughter” suffered, according to court documents.
The scheme stole more than $560,000 from more than 400 military members, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service said in a statement Wednesday. These payments came through Western Union, MoneyGram and PayPal, authorities said.
“Too many service members from throughout the armed services have fallen victim to this scam,” Robert E. Craig Jr., a special agent from the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, said in a statement.